PEOPLE who drink semi-skimmed milk are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who have the full-fat variety, according to research.
A major study found a significant link between regular consumption of low-fat dairy products – such as yogurt, milk and cheese – and the development of the neurological condition.
Those who drank skimmed or semi-skimmed milk more than once a day were 39 per cent more likely to develop Parkinson’s than those who did so less than once a week. Crucially, the same link was not seen for full-fat milk.
Harvard University researchers also analysed how often people ate other low-fat dairy products including cottage cheese and yogurt.
Those who consumed at least three servings a day had a 34 per cent greater chance of developing Parkinson’s than people who consumed less than one serving per day. The study tracked 130,000 people over 25 years.
Researcher Katherine Hughes, from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, said: ‘Our study is the largest analysis of dairy and Parkinson’s to date.
‘Such dairy products, which are widely consumed, could potentially be a modifiable risk factor for the disease.’
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the brain which control movement.
Experts suspect all dairy products have the potential to raise the risk of the disease because they are thought to reduce levels of protective chemicals in the body –called urates. But they think eating full-fat products lessens this impact, as saturated fat helps to prevent the urates from being driven out of the body.
Experts stressed that although the relative increased risk was significant, very few people would actually develop Parkinson’s.
Of the 77,864 in the study who consumed less than one serving per day of low-fat dairy foods, 483 people, or 0.6 per cent, developed Parkinson’s.
Among those who ate more than three servings a day, the risk increased to 1 per cent. But the authors said even this risk needed further investigation, particularly in relation to the impact of urates – which although protective against Parkinson’s, are thought to raise the risk of gout.
Writing in the Neurology medical journal, researchers said: ‘A substantial body of evidence suggests that urates may be protective against Parkinson’s disease.’
But Dr Anne Mullen, director of nutrition at The Dairy Council, said: ‘We must remember that the factors that cause Parkinson’s are not clearly understood, but they are believed to have genetic and environmental components.
‘Generally, dietary factors are not at all well investigated in relation to the major causes of Parkinson’s disease, so the results here should not be over-interpreted.’
Claire Bale, from Parkinson’s UK, said last night: ‘It’s really important to point out the risk of developing Parkinson’s was still very low – around one in 100 – even in those who consumed lots of dairy, so there is no reason for people to make changes to their diet based on this research.
‘If we can understand more about how and why dietary factors influence Parkinson’s, it could reveal exciting opportunities for developing urgently needed treatments that can slow, stop or even prevent the condition.’
© Daily Mail