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Avoiding Dairy to Prevent Parkinson’s

August 27, 2013 by Michael Greger M.D. in News with 34 Comments

There are four things that may reduce our risk of developing Parkinson’s disease: increase exercise, and avoid dairy products, pesticides, and head trauma (please  wear your seatbelt and bike helmet!).

What about avoiding pesticides and other industrial pollutants? A recent autopsy study found higher levels in the brains of Parkinson’s victims of certain PCBs found in Monsanto’s Aroclor, which was banned in 1979. The more PCBs found in the brain, the worse the brain damage. The worst three appeared to be PCBs 138, 153, and 180, all of which are significantly lower in the bodies of those eating plant-based diets (see Industrial Pollutants in Vegans).

So, does a vegan diet reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease? If you watch my 3-min video Preventing Parkinson’s Disease With Diet you’ll see that every prospective study looking at dairy products and Parkinson’s disease found an increased risk associated with consumption. This may be because dairy products in the United States are contaminated with neurotoxic chemicals. Autopsy studies consistently find higher levels of pollutants in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients, and some of these toxins are present at low levels in dairy products.

Tetrahydroisoquinoline is one such parkinsonism-related toxin found predominantly in cheese. Although the amounts of this neurotoxin—even in cheese—are not very high, the concern is that the chemical may accumulate in the brain over long periods of consumption resulting in the brain damage associated with Parkinson’s diease.

I also touch on Parkinson’s in:

Avoiding dairy may have other benefits. See, for example:

What if it’s too late and you or a friend or family member already have Parkinson’s? Please check out my video Treating Parkinson’s Disease With Diet.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Image credit: www.bluewaikiki.com / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

About Michael Greger M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

View all videos by Michael Greger M.D.

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  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Today’s blog doesn’t even scratch the surface of what toxins lie in milk!
    If anyone is interested and you want even more information and proof of the contaminants in milk and the problems associated with drinking it, please read “White Wash” by Joseph Keon. Eye opening for sure!

    Chock full of over 1000 references for your corroborating pleasure.

    • VegAtHeart

      For those busy folks who don’t have time to read the full book and 1000 references, what would you say are the key points?

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        Don’t drink milk!
        ;-)

        • VegAtHeart

          A snappy answer to my stupid question. Mad magazine would be proud.

    • Dan Lundeen

      I am also curious how ‘organic’ or pastured cows milk stacks up against factory farmed milk. There’s still going to be pcb and dioxin in it because those are everywhere, and still going to be bovine hormones in it to get a calf to pack on 600 pounds, of course, but just wondering if there are any studies addressing this you are aware of?

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        Sure the toxins would be less but you cannot change the fact that the main protein casein (87% of the protein in milk) is known to turn on gene’s that promote cancer.
        Cow milk is for baby cows!

  • Paddycakes

    Avoid dairy, prevent cancer.

    • Brian Kuhlmann

      There are 17 cancers associated with a lack of Vitamin D.(including prostate and colon). So this is quite a dilema for people living in the Northern U.S. and Canada, those working indoors, using sunscreen etc.who do not get enough sunlight and can not absorb through supplements.

      • Dan Lundeen

        Don’t understand how supp D added to milk is any different than taking a D supp per se? There are natural foods with D in them like sun grown mushrooms, still it is a good idea to take a supp.

      • vegan_sunshine

        Mushrooms are jam packed with vitamin D and it’s easy to fill your daily need with vitamin D fortified soy milk and orange juice.

        • Toxins

          Vitamin D supplements may be necessary to reach levels recommended here at 2,000 IU’s per day

          http://nutritionfacts.org/video/vitamin-d-supplements-may-be-necessary/

        • Brian Kuhlmann

          I take a supplement as well. Mushrooms are the only veggie were Vitamin D is found naturally. How many would one have to eat? How many people eat mushrooms everyday? How does it compare to fish or fortified milk, soy milk, juice, fish, etc? I think this is the issue. People won’t or can’t eat enough fish and mushrooms to make up for what they would get in fortified milk, which is much more available and affordable considering the amount of vit D per serving.

  • Brian Kuhlmann

    I would like to see the publications before I make any life changes

  • Chuck

    Michelle, does this mean avoid all cheeses? Are there any cheeses where the toxins were not found?

    • Bev

      Artisan nut cheeses, yum! All protein and tons of nutrients!

  • Ann

    The “Treating Parkinson’s with Diet” link does not work.

  • Dog Walker

    Are there any similar studies on dairy or meat consumption, brain toxin accumulation and MS? I would love to know.

  • shiftpolitics

    Also, avoiding aspartame.

  • Lawrence

    You may also wish to check http://www.milkdocumentary.com

  • Derrek

    Does spraying food help get rid of some of pesticides? I use vinegar and water since I can’t afford all organic.

    • Thea

      Derrek: I don’t have an answer to your exact question, but I think I have some thoughts that may help.

      Dr. Greger has a great blog post where he puts pesticide consumption into perspective. :
      “A new study calculated that if half the U.S. population ate just one more serving of conventional fruits and vegetables, 20,000 cases of cancer could be prevented. At the same time the added pesticide consumption could cause up to 10 extra cancer cases. So by eating conventional produce we may get a tiny bump in cancer risk, but that’s more than compensated by the dramatic drop in risk that accompanies whole food plant consumption. Even if all we had to eat was the most contaminated produce the benefits would far outweigh any risks.”

      from: http://nutritionfacts.org/2013/06/25/apple-peels-turn-on-anticancer-genes/

      I translate this bit of info into: Eat organic when you can, but don’t stress about it when you can’t.

      Happily, there is a way to take this advice a step further to minimize your risks without completely depleting the pocketbook. Every year, the Environmental Working Group actually measures pesticide levels in fruits and veggies–after those fruits and veggies have been prepared in the way people would normally eat them. (For example, peeling a banana or washing first.) If you scroll down on the following page, you will see a list for the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”.

      http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

      I bring your attention to these lists because I think they are very helpful for people who can’t afford to eat organic for everything. You could use these lists to help you decide when it is worth putting down money for organic and when it might be safer to buy non-organic.

      I hope this helps!

  • Brian Kuhlmann

    bad science ain’t science. debunking the debunkers. http://thatsnotscience.blogspot.com/2013/02/debunking-debunking.html

    • Mike Quinoa

      The person being “debunked” by your link is not Dr. Greger, nor are the quoted studies that are listed with each of his videos being debunked either. If Dr. Greger made any claims similar to the ones made by Vivian Goldschmidt MA, they would be backed up by hard science.

  • Brian Kuhlmann

    Keep in mind that correlation and association is not causation.

  • jw

    Is organic and/or nonfat dairy (esp yogurt) any safer?

  • angela bob

    I have heard about the benefits of avoiding dairy from my vegan friends. there is also no way to really tell what happened to the cow before that cheese or milk reached your fridge. until now, though, i never knew about the link to Parkinson’s. I want to learn more.

  • Aaron

    I remember a few years ago I met an old man who had Parkinson’s. He was an elite athlete back in his youth and I remember reading an old newspaper article with an interview with in it. One question was about his diet and he said he drank a gallon of milk everyday to have the energy to run all those miles.

    I remember later reading about research into the relationship between dairy consumption and Parkinson’s risk. Then it clicked why this man had probably developed the disease.

  • http://parkinsonsand5htp.blogspot.com gleeson1929

    Using the link for the video on Parkinson’s Disease and Diet, i get the message no longer available. Any other way to access it?

  • Eli

    Psuedoscience at its best.

    • Toxins

      Why do you say that?

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