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Avoiding Dairy to Prevent Parkinson’s

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 videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling 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.

40 responses to “Avoiding Dairy to Prevent Parkinson’s

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  1. 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.

    1. 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?

      1. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. 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.

    1. 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.”


      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”.

      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!

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. My father is a milk lover… almost a liter of milk everyday, and plenty of cottage cheese for years and years. And he’s got Parkinson’s, now I wonder if that’s a coincidence or not.

  4. I am a 55 year old female; I do cross fit and weight lifting 5x a week with occasional Spartan races. My cholesterol levels and blood pressure are all in low normal ranges. Although I don’t in general consume a lot of dairy, I have found that the only morning breakfast that gives me enough energy for my workouts is whole milk Greek yogurt mixed with 2% kefir topped with fresh blueberries and strawberries. Eggs give me horrible stomach issues as much as I enjoy them, so any egg consumption is out. I’ve tried oatmeal topped with walnuts and dates or protein pancakes with a side of lean breakfast meat, but I’m hungry again in about an hour. If consuming dairy is unhealthy, I’m not sure what else I can eat that is quick, easy and tasty.

    1. admdavison: Some ideas to try: Oatmeal that is more intact (ie, instead of quick rolled oats, try steal cut oats, which break down more slowly in your system). Or experiment with other intact grains, such as hulled barley. You can also try plant-based yogurts and kefirs.

      There are lots of athletes that are plant based and excelling at their sports, including winning Olympic medals and making world records. These athletes generally report an improvement in their performance after changing their diet. I have a whole list of examples if you are interested. These examples may lead you to sites that have example meal plans you could follow. Either way, the bottom line is that if eating healthy is of interest to you, there is definitely a way to do it even for someone who does cross fit and Spartan races. :-)

      1. I’m a big fan of Bob’s Red Mill products. I’ve tried a lot of their products, my favorite being the Extra Thick Rolled Oats, but I have to triple the serving which is a scan 1/2 cup to even think about getting through a workout (maybe I should just triple the serving and not worry about it). I don’t bother with the quick cooking stuff. So Delicious has plant-based yogurt with no added sugar. I’ll pick that up from the store today.

        1. amdavidson: Good luck! The extra thick rolled oats are definitely an improvement over other rolled oats. Bob’s Red Mill (I’m also a fan) also has other grains, you might look into. The more intact, the better. (Rolled oats are more processed because they are pre-cooked to some degree. *Not* that they are unhealthy. Just that I wonder if someone highly athletic such as yourself would do better with something more hearty.) I definitely would not worry about serving size for someone like you. I believe (I could be wrong) that serving sizes are standardized by a government agency so you can compare across products and companies. Those serving sizes are not necessarily what any one person should be eating at a sitting.
          If you can find a way to skip the meat, dairy and eggs while focusing on whole plant foods, I suspect you will end up patting yourself on the back in the future.
          You didn’t ask, but I just couldn’t help sharing since I’m thinking about it now. Below are some of those examples I told you about. Feel free to ignore!
          Here’s a site that I like:

          I found this story on the above site: “Pat Reeves has set a new world powerlifting record at the WDFPA World Single Lift Championships. The 66 year old lifter, who has been vegan for 46 years, lifted 94 kg to set a record for the under 50.5kg weight class while competing in France in June 2012. The lift was more than 1.85 times her bodyweight, which is exceptional for her division. Pat is now officially the oldest competing weightlifter in Europe.”

          Bite Size Vegan has a youtube channel
          “In this video series, you’ll hear from various vegan athletes from all walks of life and athletic abilities speaking to such topics as vegan athletic performance, building muscle on a vegan diet, vegan endurance running, bodybuilding, body image, and more!”

          Here’s a story about a bodybuilder who doesn’t use any supplements. Just eats whole plant foods:

          Story of Mac Denzig, winner of season six of The Ultimate Fighter


          (article from meatout mondays)
          Vegan Bodybuilders Dominate Texas Competition

          The Plant Built ( team rolled into this year’s drug-free, steroid-free Naturally Fit Super Show competition in Austin, TX, and walked away with more trophies than even they could carry.

          The Plant Built team of 15 vegan bodybuilders competed in seven divisions, taking first place in all but two. They also took several 2nd and 3rd place wins.

          For More Info:

          Mr Universe – “Since going vegan, he has actually gained even more mass, now at 107 Kilos…”

          When Robert Cheeke started in 2002, being the only vegan athlete he knew of, he may not have imagined that the website would quickly grow to have thousands of members. Robert says, “We’re discovering new vegan athletes all the time, from professional and elite levels… to weekend warriors and everyone in between.”

          For More Info:

          There was that other guy who just did a world record in weight lifting. “Congratulations to Strongman Patrik Baboumian who yesterday took a ten metre walk carrying more than half a tonne on his shoulders, more than anyone has ever done before. After smashing the world record the Strongman let out a roar of ‘Vegan Power’…” For more info:

          another article on the same guy:
          And another article: “I got heavier, I got stronger, I won the European championship title in powerlifting, I broke three world records so everything was going perfect … my blood pressure went down, and my recovery time was so much faster so I could train more.”
          Book: Vegan Bodybuilding And Fitness by Robert Cheeke

          And another article from Meetout Mondays:

          Vegan Figure Skater Takes Silver
          Canadian Olympian Meagan Duhamel and her partner Eric Radford won a silver medal in pairs figure skating at this year’s Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.

          Duhamel proudly took to Twitter announcing that she is an “Olympian, vegan, yogi and nutritionist.” Wonderful! Congratulations to Meagan for being an outspoken and shining example of what healthy vegan eating looks like. …

          (from Meetout Mondays)
          Plant-Powered Athlete: Griff Whalen [NFL Player]
          His teammates say he has the most enviable body on the team. They say he consumes an average of 6,000 calories and 200 grams of protein a day. They also say, he does it all by eating plants!

          In a recent interview on, Indianapolis Colts’ wide receiver Griff Whalen, talks about his vegan ways.

          “I feel a lot lighter, faster, quicker on the field. There isn’t that heavy feeling, that groggy feeling after I eat,” says Whalen.

          Hooray for another plant-powered athlete for us to cheer on. w00t! w00t!

          Read the full article on :

          (from Meetout Mondays)
          NFL’s David Carter on Living Vegan: In an interview last month on Rich Roll’s podcast, 27 year old Chicago Bears’ defensive lineman, David Carter spoke of a day in the life of the NFL, what he eats daily, his vegan journey, and his commitment to animal advocacy.

          “I can honestly say that being vegan is not only the most efficient way to be full-body strong, it’s also the most humane; everyone wins,” Carter said on the podcast.

          Carter is also the founder of The 300 Pound Vegan, a lifestyle blog where the NFL player writes about his journey through veganism and shares plant-based recipes. If nothing else, Carter shows us that living on plants is not just for endurance athletes or yogis but can positively impact heavy hitters in terms of their size, speed, agility, power, and quickness. Aww, yeah! Thanks for being so rad, David. We love it!

          Listen to the full interview on Rich Roll:
          Or for a written story with sample menu plan:

          And another article from Meetout Mondays:

          Record Setting, 92 Yr Old Vegan Runner

          Mike Fremont has been vegan for over 20 years, and has been setting single age marathon running records just as long.

          “At age 88 [Mike] ran a 6H5M53S marathon in Cincinnati Ohio and at age 90 ran a 6H35M47S marathon in Huntington West Virginia. [He] also set a single age world record for 90 years old in the half marathon in Morrow Ohio in August 2012,” said Veg World Magazine.

          According to an interview with Veg World Magazine, Fremont credits his vegan lifestyle for his continued record setting runs, at his age.

          We love seeing vegans making positive media waves, and what better way to showcase the health benefits of plant-powered living than Mike’s awesome running career. Here’s to you Mike, and vegan athletes of all ages!

          Learn more about Mike Fremont a

          from Meatout Mondays:

          World’s First Vegan Pro Soccer Team

          The Internet went wild last week as the news that English soccer (A.K.A football) team, the Forest Green Rovers, announced that the entire team and club is going completely vegan.

          “We stopped serving meat to our players, fans and staff about four seasons ago,” said club owner Dale Vince (via a recent article on He continued, “We’ve been on a mission since then to introduce our fans to this new world.” The article explains that while the club has been vegetarian for the past few years, they’ve decided to take the next step in going fully vegan (including their beer and cider options). Also cool to know: the club’s field is organic and they collect rainwater to use for irrigation. This is seriously super cool, you guys. Keep it up!

          Read the source article on:

          from Meatout Mondays:
          Vegan Arm Wrestler: Rob Bigwood

          “Some of his opponents say that since going vegan Rob is stronger, his stamina grew, and he became more difficult to pin,” notes an interview-style Facebook post by ‘Starry N Ight.’

          A competitive arm wrestler since 2000, Rob Bigwood has been making a name for himself in the arm wrestling community—not only as the one to beat but also as the guy who eats plants. Rob has said, “I was concerned at first [about not eating meat for strength] but didn’t care. I made a conscious and ethical decision to give up meat…It is more important to practice what I believe in than to worry about being a strength athlete. I have never felt better in my entire life and it was one of the smartest decisions I ever made.”

          Check out one of Rob’s interviews on

          from Meatout Mondays:
          Vegan Bodybuilder Bucks Stereotypes

          Vegan bodybuilder Joshua Knox shares his game changing and inspiring vegan story during a TEDxFremont, California presentation.

          In this five-minute long video, shared by Mercy for Animals, Knox talks of his ‘meat and potatoes’ upbringing and what led him to give veganism a try. The results were nothing short of wonderful.

          “Not only was I able to continue increasing my strength and performance but also saw massive gains in endurance as well… [and] rather than feeling like I was missing out on foods I really felt that I was opening my mind to so many things I would have never put on my plate…” Knox said during his presentation. Joshua also noted a drop in his cholesterol, while experiencing mental and emotional health improvements as well. Rock on, Josh! Thank you for sharing your story

          Watch the short video on Mercy for Animals’ youtube channel:

          from Meatout Mondays:
          Vegan Breaks World Record in Push-Ups

          A vegan from Kerala (a South Indian state) has just broken the Guinness World Record for knuckle push-ups (press ups). K.J. Joseph—a manager of an ayurveda centre in Munnar—completed 82 push-ups in 60 seconds, beating out Ron Cooper from the US who held the record at 79 push-ups in 2015. “Joseph has already entered the Universal Record Forum by doing 2092 push-ups in an hour. He is currently the record holder in the India Book of Records,” notes Thanks for making us vegans look good, Joseph. And congrats on your win!

          Check out the original story:

          from Meatout Mondays:

          Professional Bodybuilding Couple Celebrate Veganism
          Named 2014 Mr Universe, Barny Du Plessis and his fiance, named UK’s strongest woman, Josie Keck are excited to share and to celebrate their one year vegan anniversary this month. In a comprehensive interview by British publication, Daily Mail, the vegan (literal) power couple are “…serious about [their] crusade to save the Earth, the animals, [themselves], and our dignity as a species,” said Barny. The articles noted that, “Barny is on a mission to destroy the idea that eating meat is associated with manliness.” He said, “I’m living proof that you simply don’t need to eat meat or animal products to make great gains, be strong, healthy, fit, and feeling mighty.” We couldn’t agree more, Barny. Congratulations to you both on your anniversary! We’re so jazzed you’re passionate about veganism.

          “When training for competitions Barny eats up to 4,500 calories a day, while Josie consumes 2,200 of vegan food. While preparing for a competition their typical diet consists of a wide variety of vegetables; fruit such as apples, bananas, dates and berries; grains such as basmati rice, quinoa and tapioca, pulses like chickpeas and brown and red lentils; as well as powders such as rice protein, hemp protein and vegan protein blend.” And the article includes a sample daily menu for each of them.

          From PCRM Weekly News Update:
          What do the world’s top male and female tennis players have in common? They love vegan food! In a new Huffington Post piece, Dr. Barnard talks about plant-powered Novak Djokovic’s recent win at the French Open.

      2. These links are all VERY helpful! Thank you so much for including them. I will definitely check them out. Also, I have seen the movie Forks Over Knives. I doubt I will ever go 100% vegan, but it pushed me toward a heavy plant-based diet with small amounts of lean meat, at least for me.

        The plant based yogurts that I found at my local whole foods-type/organic market didn’t make the cut. They have very little to almost no protein and the soy-based were all flavored with added sugar, sometimes up to 27 grams! So much sugar in flavored yogurt yet they’re advertised as being healthy. Yuck! I may need to go to a different market to see if I can find some unsweetened plain soy yogurt.

        I’ll see what the links you provided have to say about making a high protein vegan breakfast.

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