Milk Contaminants Linked To Parkinson's Disease

First Posted: Dec 10, 2015 03:15 PM EST

A pesticide previously found in milk may increase the risk of Parkinson's disease, according to a recent report.

The pesticide Heptachlor was used by pineapple farmers in the 1980s for milk after scraps and debris from farms were fed to dairy cows. Even though the commercial sale of the product was banned in the United States in 1988, scientists say that the chemical persists in soil and water for years and has even been found in goat and milk supplies in other parts of the world.

During the study, researchers examined data collected from 1965 to 1968 via the Honolulu-Asia-Aging Study on milk intake, including 449 Japanese-American men between the ages of 45 and 68. The men in the study agreed to donate their brains for postmortem research following death.

Findings showed that the pesticide was in 9 out of 10 brains of those who drank the most milk. It was also found in about 63 percent of those who drank no milk. Researchers also found that nonsmokers who drank over two cups of milk per day had 40 percent fewer brain cells in a region of the brain linked to the disease than those who drank less than two cups of milk per day--supporting previous findings that suggest how smokers may have a lower risk for Parkinson's disease.

However, researchers point out the study does not show that the pesticide or milk cause Parkinson's disease. At this time, researchers were also unable to determine whether the milk the men drank was contaminated with pesticides.

"There are several possible explanations for the association, including chance," said Dr. Honglei Chen, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and a member of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), via a corresponding editorial. "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."

The study is published in the journal Neurology.

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