New, Large-Scale Study Links Dairy to Parkinson’s Disease

Numerous studies* going back several years have found an association between dairy consumption and a higher incidence of Parkinson’s disease. Now “Intake of dairy foods and risk of Parkinson disease”, a new study published this week in Neurology, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, has gone further, concluding that there is, in fact, a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s in individuals who consume three or more servings of some dairy products per day over those individuals who consume less than a single serving per day.

The large-scale study, conducted through the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health and published June 7, 2017 found specifically

  1. Consuming at least three servings of low-fat dairy a day is associated with a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s disease compared to consuming less than one serving a day, and
  2. Drinking more than one serving of low-fat or skim milk per day is associated with a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s disease compared to drinking less than one serving per week

The study, as described by researcher Katherine C. Hughes, ScD, of the Harvard Chan School of

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Public Health, was the largest analysis yet done investigating the relationship of dairy and Parkinson’s and included 80,736 women and 48,610 men, and analyzed data compiled over a 25 year period. Of the total 129,346 participants in the study, 1,036 developed Parkinson’s disease.

Perhaps the most intriguing findings in the study were those differentiating the effects of full-fat dairy products as opposed to low-fat dairy. In fact, the study found that while they saw no association or causation between consumption of full-fat dairy products, such as whole milk, with the development of Parkinson’s, they found among people who consumed at least three servings of low-fat dairy a day a 34% greater chance of developing Parkinson’s than people who consumed less than one serving per day. Even more compelling was their finding that people who consumed more than one serving per day of low-fat or skim milk had a 39% greater chance of developing the disease than those who consumed less than one serving per week. They also found that the consumption of sherbet or frozen yogurt was linked to a slight increase in instances of developing Parkinson’s.

While researchers did reach the conclusion that frequent consumption of dairy products is associated with a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s, they cautioned that the overall instance of the disease is still very low. Of the 5,830 people in the study who consumed at least three servings per day of low-fat dairy, only 1%, a total of 60 people, developed the disease over the study period, while of those who consumed less than one serving per day of low-fat dairy, 77,864 subjects, 0.6%, a total of 483 people, developed the disease.

Researchers included a statement in the study that seemed to minimize their findings, voicing their belief that while the study found that association to be present, that dairy consumption

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produced only a modest increase in the development of the disease, .06% to 1%. But as we look at it, that sounds like the increased risk of consuming low-fat dairy products on a frequent basis virtually doubles the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Add a decreased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease to the list of benefits of a Vegan diet.

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*For example: Parkinson’s Disease: No Milk Today? and Dairy products and risk of Parkinson’s disease


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