Drinking Milk Has An Unexpected Effect On Your Mood

The calcium, potassium, protein, and phosphorus content that can be found in milk and other dairy products may offer protective properties against various health conditions, according to 2023 research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. This includes everything from tooth decay to diabetes, heart problems, cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, and more. Dairy is also a key player when it comes to energy, providing us with as much as 12% of our daily energy requirements.

In addition to numerous physical health benefits, dairy — more specifically, milk — may impact your emotional well-being in a surprisingly unexpected way by boosting your mood. The reason is that dairy contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that supports serotonin production and the balance of gut bacteria in the body, both of which are connected with our psychological health. Furthermore, scientists have observed these mood-boosting effects across age groups, demonstrating how milk can be a healthy choice for any one of us, not just growing kids.

Regularly drinking milk may have you feeling more positive

In a 2022 study published in the scientific journal Nutrients, researchers used digital survey data from more than 1,200 college students across three U.S. universities to examine a potential relationship between dairy and calcium intake and students' mental health. Measures of mental health included students' reported levels of anxiety and rumination, as well as positive and negative states of mood, amongst other factors. Survey questions regarding participant diet were also posed, such as how often students had consumed milk within the last month. Everything from traditional milk to buttermilk, flavored milks, lactose-free milk, and cereal milk was valid, with the exception of soy milk or minor amounts of milk, such as for a cup of coffee.

The results showed that both dairy and calcium consumption were each linked with increases in students' positive mood scores. In fact, positive mood scores increased by 3% per cup of dairy. Additionally, greater dairy intake was also associated with lower scores of perceived stress among students. Dairy did not, however, affect every measure of mental health outlined in the research. No relationship was observed between dairy intake and levels of anxiety, resilience, rumination, or negative mood scores.

The effects of high-fat versus low-fat milk on mental health

In the previously mentioned 2023 study, researchers also looked at dairy intake in relation to psychological symptoms. This time, the research involved 5,904 undergraduate students in China. To assess dairy consumption, students were issued questionnaires asking how often they had consumed dairy in the last seven days. This included food sources as well as liquid and powder milk products. Study findings showed that consuming lesser amounts of dairy was linked with increases in psychological symptoms such as stress, depression, and anxiety. Those who consumed dairy six or more times a week, on the other hand, had the lowest rates of such symptoms.

Not all types of milk may be equally effective, however. In the 2022 study published in Nutrients, researchers noted that some studies have found these mental health benefits only in relation to low-fat dairy products or that dairy products high in fat actually worsen anxiety. Vantage Point explains that this may be due to the fact that dairy can throw off the balance of our microbiome, particularly for those who are lactose intolerant. Because high-fat milk may not be as beneficial when it comes to mood, some experts suggest opting for fat-free organic milk instead (via The Seattle Times).