Parkinson's Disease Linked to Pesticide in Milk, Study Finds

Americans who drank cow’s milk prior to the early 1980s may be at a higher risk for developing Parkinson’s disease, according to new research.

The study, published in the American Academy of Neurology, says a pesticide that was commonly used in the pineapple industry is to blame.

More than 440 men were studied for more than 30 years (and until their death) for the studies. Autopsies were also performed on the subjects to study their brains and determine whether or not they had lost brain cells in the brain’s substantia nigra, an area commonly affected by Parkinson’s. The researchers also measured for heptachlor epoxide, the pesticide used in Hawaii’s pineapple industry. 

“The link between dairy products and Parkinson’s disease has been found in other studies,” said study author R. D. Abbott, PhD, with the Shiga University of Medical Science in Otsu, Japan. “Our study looked specifically at milk and the signs of Parkinson’s in the brain.”

“There are several possible explanations for the association, including chance,” wrote Honglei Chen, MD, PhD, with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Also, milk consumption was measured only once at the start of the study, and we have to assume that this measurement represented participants’ dietary habits over time.” 

According to the researchers, nonsmokers who drank more than two cups of milk per day showed 40 percent fewer brain cells in the substantia nigra than those who did not. An overwhelming 90 percent of people who consumed large amounts of milk showed residue of heptachlor epoxide in the brain compared with 63 percent of people who did not consume as much milk, strongly associating the chemical in milk with the onset of Parkinson’s.

More than 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year. While there are several treatment regimens that can slow the development and ease the symptoms, there is currently no cure for the disease.

By Jill Ettinger| December 10, 2015
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a freelance journalist and marketing specialist primarily focused on the organic and natural industries, she bridges her love for changing the food system with her lifelong passion for writing and connecting people in their shared values. You can connect with Jill on Twitter and Instagram.

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