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Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Feb;101(2):287-93. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.096701. Epub 2014 Dec 10.

Dairy intake is associated with brain glutathione concentration in older adults.

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  • 1From the Hoglund Brain Imaging Center (I-YC, PL, and JAL) and the Departments of Neurology (I-YC), Molecular & Integrative Physiology (I-YC and PL), and Dietetics and Nutrition (KS, ON, LP, and DKS), University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS, and the Department of Psychology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS (DRD and AKR).



A reduction in key antioxidants such as glutathione has been noted in brain tissue undergoing oxidative stress in aging and neurodegeneration. To date, no dietary factor has been linked to a higher glutathione concentration. However, in an earlier pilot study, we showed evidence of a positive association between cerebral glutathione and dairy intake.


We tested the hypothesis that dairy food consumption is associated with cerebral glutathione concentrations in older adults.


In this observational study, we measured cerebral glutathione concentrations in 60 healthy subjects (mean ± SD age: 68.7 ± 6.2 y) whose routine dairy intakes varied. Glutathione concentrations were measured by using a unique, noninvasive magnetic resonance chemical shift imaging technique at 3 T and compared with dairy intakes reported in 7-d food records.


Glutathione concentrations in the frontal [Spearman's rank-order correlation (rs) = 0.39, P = 0.013], parietal (rs = 0.50, P = 0.001), and frontoparietal regions (rs = 0.47, P = 0.003) were correlated with average daily dairy servings. In particular, glutathione concentrations in all 3 regions were positively correlated with milk servings (P ≤ 0.013), and those in the parietal region were also correlated with cheese servings (P = 0.015) and calcium intake (P = 0.039). Dairy intake was related to sex, fat-free mass, and daily intakes of energy, protein, and carbohydrates. However, when these factors were controlled through a partial correlation, correlations between glutathione concentrations and dairy and milk servings remained significant.


Higher cerebral glutathione concentrations were associated with greater dairy consumption in older adults. One possible explanation for this association is that dairy foods may serve as a good source of substrates for glutathione synthesis in the human brain.

© 2015 American Society for Nutrition.


aging brain; dairy foods; dietary intake; glutathione; magnetic resonance spectroscopy

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