Is There a Link Between Milk and Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinsonís is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimerís. Each year in the United States, approximately 60,000 new cases are diagnosed, bringing the total number of current cases up to about a million, with tens of thousands of people dying from the disease every year.

The dietary component most often implicated is milk and contamination of milk by neurotoxins has been considered the ďonly possible explanation.Ē High levels of organochlorine pesticide residues have been found in milk, as well as in the most affected areas in the brains of Parkinsonís victims on autopsy. Pesticides in milk have been found around the world, so perhaps the dairy industry should require toxin screenings of milk. In fact, inexpensive, sensitive, portable tests are now available with no false positives and no false negatives, providing rapid detection of highly toxic pesticides in milk. Now, we just have to convince the dairy industry to actually do it.

Others are not as convinced of the pesticide link. ďDespite clear-cut associations between milk intake and PD [Parkinsonís disease] incidence, there is no rational explanation for milk being a risk factor for PD.Ē If it were the pesticides present in milk that could accumulate in the brain, we would assume that the pesticides would build up in the fat. However, the link between skimmed milk and Parkinsonís is just as strong. So, researchers have suggested reverse causation: The milk didnít cause Parkinsonís; the Parkinsonís caused the milk.

Parkinsonís makes some people depressed, they reasoned, and depressed people may drink more milk. As such, they suggested we shouldnít limit dairy intake for people with Parkinsonís, especially because they are so susceptible to hip fractures. But we now know that milk doesnít appear to protect against hip fractures after all and may actually increase the risk of both bone fractures and death. Ironically, this may offer a clue as to whatís going on in Parkinsonís, but first, letís look at this reverse causation argument: Did milk lead to Parkinsonís, or did Parkinsonís lead to milk?

What we need are prospective cohort studies in which milk consumption is measured first and people are followed over time, and such studies still found a significant increase in risk associated with dairy intake. The risk increased by 17 percent for every small glass of milk a day and 13 percent for every daily half slice of cheese. Again, the standard explanation is that the risk is from all the pesticides and other neurotoxins in dairy, but that doesnít explain why thereís more risk attached to some dairy products than others. Pesticide residues are found in all dairy products, so why should milk be associated with Parkinsonís more than cheese is? Besides the pesticides themselves, there are other neurotoxic contaminants in milk, like tetrahydroisoquinolines, found in the brains of people with Parkinsonís disease, but there are higher levels of these in cheese than in milk, though people may drink more milk than eat cheese.

The relationship between dairy and Huntingtonís disease appears similar. Huntingtonís is a horrible degenerative brain disease that runs in families and whose early onset may be doubled by dairy consumption, but again, this may be more milk consumption than cheese consumption, which brings us back to the clue in the more-milk-more-mortality study.

Anytime we hear disease risks associated with more milk than cheeseómore oxidative stress and inflammationówe should think galactose, the milk sugar rather than the milk fat, protein, or pesticides. Thatís why we think milk drinkers specifically appeared to have a higher risk of bone fractures and death, which may explain the neurodegeneration findings, too. Not only do rare individuals with an inability to detoxify the galactose found in milk suffer damage to their bones, but they also exhibit damage to their brains.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you havenít yet, you can subscribe to my free videos†here†and watch my live, year-in-review presentationsó2015:†Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016:†How Not to Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.

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56 comments

Ruth S
Ruth S6 days ago

Thanks.

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Cindy S
Cindy S15 days ago

thanks

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Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons26 days ago

Is there a link between lack of milk and vitamin D deficiency? yes.

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William C
William C27 days ago

Thanks.

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Kathy G
Kathy G27 days ago

Thank you

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Greta L
Greta L27 days ago

Thanks for posting

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Cindy S
Past Member 28 days ago

thanks

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Edith B
Edith B29 days ago

Thanks

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Ruth Rakotomanga
Ruth Rakotomanga29 days ago

The way things are going, I'll have to eat my oats/muesli with green tea on it, what a depressing thought.

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Winn A
Winnie Adams29 days ago

Thanks

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