The consumption of too much milk may contribute to a man’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
The link between milk and Parkinson’s was discovered by researchers at the Shiga University of Medical Science in Otsu, Japan. It is a part of a series of ongoing studies linking the accidental consumption of pesticides with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.
Pineapple Pesticides and Parkinson’s?
The study found that the same pesticides sprayed onto Hawaiian pineapple can show up in milk.
In the study, Dr. Robert Abbott looked at the amount of milk that men were drinking. The initial survey was a part of a larger study on aging. The participating men donated their brains to the study after their death.
The study found that the men who drank the most milk (over 16 ounces per day) had the most significant damage in their brains. This damage featured low numbers of brain cells in the substantia nigra. This is the specific region of the brain that is damaged by Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to looking at damaged cells, researchers looked for possible signs of pesticides. The men who drank a lot of milk also had residues of a pesticide called heptachlor epoxide in their brains. Heptachlor expoxide was removed from use in the U.S. markets after 1988.
The study showed that pesticide residues were found in 9 out of 10 brains from the men who drank more than 16 ounces of milk per day. The pesticide was only found in 63.4 percent of men who did not drink milk. Strangely, the men who drank milk and smoked cigarettes saw no brain cell loss.
Connecting the Dots
Understanding the links between pesticides and Parkinson’s is important for understanding the development of the disease. Because there is no genetic link in most cases, understanding environmental causes could be the key to unlocking the disease.
Parkinson’s is currently a mystery to many doctors and patients. Approximately 85% of Parkinson’s sufferers do not know why they have this cruel disease.
Parkinson’s affects around one million Americans. The disease features symptoms like mild to severe tremors. It can also cause rigid muscles. The combination of the two symptoms can create serious problems with movement that are often debilitating for patients.
Because no one knows why Parkinson’s occurs, there is no cure for the disease; however, treatments are becoming more effective. Early treatment can help offset some of the more painful symptoms. Ultimately, almost all patients eventually succumb to the disease.
Early treatment is crucial to improving longevity in patients who develop Parkinson’s disease, but it is not always possible because without a cause, it is hard to find an appropriate treatment plan for every patient.
Possible Concerns and Other Links
A recent report from Swedish researchers suggests that depression can be an early symptom of Parkinson’s. It may even be a risk factor for developing the disease.
The Swedish study found a link between Parkinson’s and depression. The researchers used the national health database to look for members of the population who had been diagnosed with depression between the years 1987 and 2012. The data showed that 1% of those people, who were over age 50, were diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Only .4% of people who were never diagnosed with depression were later diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Like pesticides, researchers cannot categorically say that depression causes Parkinson’s, but pesticides and depression see significant correlation with the death of brain cells.
The Mysteries of the Brain
Like Parkinson’s, depression is also mysterious. Doctors are not sure what causes it or how to treat it appropriately. Treatment is difficult and the use of SSRI’s often results in worsening symptoms for some patients.
The brain is a mystery. Science is only beginning the journey in understanding how the brain works. With so few clues to go on, the recent research into the potential environmental causes of neurodegenerative diseases can give people hope as they begin to navigate the aging process.
Featured photo credit: Jeremy Atkinson via flickr.com