Background: Previous epidemiological and clinical studies have shown that dairy products have beneficial effects on cognitive decline and dementia. Enzymatic digestion of whey protein produces a whey peptide rich in tryptophan-tyrosine-related peptides which improve cognitive performance in mice. We evaluated the effects of whey peptides on cognitive functions in healthy adults in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled design. Methods: 101 healthy adults (45 to 64 years), with a self-awareness of cognitive decline received either whey peptide or placebo supplements for 12 weeks. Changes in cognitive function were assessed using neuropsychological tests at 6 and 12 weeks after the start of supplementation. Results: Verbal fluency test (VFT) score changes tended to be higher in the whey peptide group compared with the placebo at 12 weeks. Subgroup analysis classified by the degree of subjective fatigue showed that changes in the VFT as well as the Stroop and subjective memory function tests between baseline and 6 weeks of intervention were significantly better in subjects with high-level fatigue from the whey peptide group as compared to the placebo group. Conclusions: Intake of whey peptide might improve cognitive function in healthy middle- and older-aged adults with high subjective fatigue levels. Further studies will elucidate the relationship among cognitive improvement, whey peptides, and psychological fatigue.
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