The American Academy of Neurology – a body of over 28,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, has found an association between a pesticide found in milk used in the 1980s with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.
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R. D. Abbott of Shiga University of Medical Science in Otsu, Japan, noted that “The link between dairy products and Parkinson’s disease has been found in other studies. Our study looked specifically at milk and the signs of Parkinson’s in the brain.”
The researchers examined 449 men aged about 54 via the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study over a 30-year period, and when any participant in the study died, he was autopsied to determine the presence of the pesticide in their brain.
Most Parkinson’s patients have fewer brain cells in the substantia nigra region – so the researchers looked for this sign during autopsies of any of the study’s participants that died. They also looked for levels of the residue of the heptachlor epoxide pesticide taken in via consumed milk in the brains of 116 study participants to see if it impacts in any way with developing signs of Parkinson’s in the participants.
Milk sold and bought in Hawaii in the early 80s was found to contain high amounts of the pesticide which was used to kill pests in pineapple farms. The US government banned the use of the pesticide at this time, but traces were continually found in well water after this time.
People who drank over 2 cups of milk back in those days had 40% less brain cells in the substantia nigra portion of the brain than others who drank less than 2 cups – but then, smokers did not display this link between the pesticide and loss of brain cells or rising risks of developing Parkinson’s even if they more than 2 cups of milk.
Almost 90% of people who drank the milk had residual levels of heptachlor epoxide in their brain, compared to 63% who did not drink the milk at this time.
Abbott was quick to point out that the researchers could not prove that all the milk participants drank in those days had the pesticide; or that milk or the pesticide causes Parkinson’s disease – but there is a sure link between milk of those days and risks of Parkinson’s.
“There are several possible explanations for the association, including chance,” said Honglei Chen of 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.”
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This study was supported by the National Institute on Aging, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the Department of the Army, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Kuakini Medical Center.