Jan. 4 2021 09:30 AM

There’s a brain-boosting flavor for everyone.

If one of your resolutions for 2021 is to take better care of your mind, you have a tasty option: eat more cheese.

That dairy product was found to be the most protective food of age-related cognitive problems in a large-scale analysis recently completed by researchers at Iowa State and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Other long-term brain-building foods were red wine, when consumed daily, and lamb (but not other red meats) when consumed weekly.

Food science and human nutrition professor Auriel Willette and neuroscience graduate student Brandon Klinedinst analyzed the dietary patterns and mental acuity of nearly 1,800 adults in the United Kingdom who were between the ages of 46 and 77 at the conclusion of the study. Participants completed an initial Fluid Intelligence Test as a baseline between 2006 and 2010 and then again in two follow-up questionnaires, first between 2012 and 2013 and then again between 2015 and 2016.

In a similar timeline, participants answered questions about their food and alcohol consumption. Even late into life, cheese was, “by far,” the most helpful in keeping brains sharp.

The researchers recognized that genetics certainly play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases, but diet could also be a factor. “I believe the right food choices can prevent the disease and cognitive decline altogether,” said Klinedinst. “Perhaps the silver bullet we're looking for is upgrading how we eat.”

This recognition comes as cheese consumption in the U.S. is at an all-time high. In 2019, Americans ate 38.3 pounds of cheese. Compared to 2010, that’s a 5.5-pound growth. Both Italian-style cheeses like Mozzarella and American cheeses like cheddar have seen steady inclines in demand for decades now.

And as the pandemic has raged on, more consumers at home have been turning to higher-fat foods, such as cheese. Pizza sales, both frozen and from restaurants, were up significantly in the early weeks of the pandemic and continue to do well.

In that sense, perhaps quarantine will help some of us stay sharp.

Katelyn Allen

Katelyn Allen joined the Hoard’s Dairyman team as the Publications Editor in August 2019 and is now an associate editor. Katelyn is a 2019 graduate of Virginia Tech, where she majored in dairy science and minored in communication. Katelyn grew up on her family’s registered Holstein dairy, Glen-Toctin Farm, in Jefferson, Md.