HealthParkinson Disease

Can milk and dairy intake increase your risk of Parkinson disease?

Bottom Line:

  • Dairy intake (specifically low fat or skim milk) may be associated with a small increase in risk for Parkinson disease.

Why this matters:

Dairy products are widely consumed.  In 2016, 212.4 billion lbs of milk were produced in the United States. Previous studies have suggested a possible link between dairy intake and Parkinson disease.

Study Design:

  • 2 prospective cohort studies
    • Nurses Health Study (n=80,736) w/ 26 yr follow-up
    • Health Professionals Follow-up study (n=48,610) with 24 years of follow-up
  • Meta-analysis of current study plus 4 previously published studies

Key Findings:

  • Main analysis: association between total dairy and Parkinson disease not significant
    • But, looking at low-fat dairy foods, >3 servings per day vs < 1  were associated with 34% (HR 1.34, 95% CI 1.01-1.79, p = 0.04)  higher risk of Parkinson disease.
    • Drinking one serving per day of skim or low-fat milk had a 39% higher risk of Parkinson disease versus less than 1 serving per week.
  • Interestingly, there was a significant linear trend for decreased risk of Parkinson disease with increased intake of high-fat dairy.
  • The meta-analysis of pooling the results for total milk intake in the current study with 3 previous studies showed 56% increased risk for Parkinson Disease. Also, pooling the results for total dairy intake with 1 previously published study showed 27% higher risk for Parkinson disease.
  • NOTE: overall risk of Parkinson disease was very low.
    • Of the 5,830 people who consumed 3 or more servings daily of low-fat dairy at the start of the study, only 60 people (1%), developed the disease over the study period.
    • Of the 77,864 people who consumed less than one serving per day of low-fat dairy, 483 people (0.6%), developed Parkinson disease.

Limitations:

  • It is important to understand this is a correlation study and not causation study.  The data on dairy intake is collected via surveys and there can be recall bias and respondent bias.

References:

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Dr. Sean

Sean Hashmi, MD, MS, FASN is a practicing Nephrologist and Obesity Medicine Specialist in Southern California. He is founding director of SELFPrinciple.org, a non-profit, non-commercial site focused on evidence based nutrition, health, and wellness.
Dr. Hashmi graduated from the University of California, San Diego Medical School. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at UCLA-Olive View Medical Center followed by a fellowship in Nephrology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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