Consuming dairy products significantly boosts the risk of Parkinson’s disease in men, concludes a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. A study surveying the dietary habits of 57,689 men found that those who consumed the most dairy products showed a 60 percent increase in the risk of Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative nervous system disorder that affects motor skills and speech.
Processed milk accounted for most of the dairy consumed by study subjects. “Processed” means the milk is pasteurized and homogenized rather than being consumed in its raw, natural state. These manufacturing processes impact the molecular structure of milk and may help explain why milk products have been found to promote Parkinson’s disease.
The pasteurization of milk kills harmful microorganisms that may be living in the milk, but it also “cooks” the milk and destroys many beneficial microorganisms that enhance digestive health. Homogenization is a process that splits fat molecules into tiny pieces, allowing the fat to stay in suspension in the milk liquid and preventing separation of the fat. While it makes the milk appear more cosmetically acceptable to consumers, homogenization is an unnatural process and it is widely suspected to be the primary reason why processed milk products have been linked to heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.
Raw, unprocessed milk is rapidly gaining popularity among health-conscious consumers. Many states are attempting to outlaw the sales of raw milk, saying it poses a health hazard to consumers with weak immune systems, but demand persists — especially among members of the raw foods community who use raw milk and active cultures to make their own kefir (fermented raw milk) at home. Kefir offers numerous health benefits and is a “living” food teeming with beneficial microorganisms.
Researchers are not yet sure why processed milk products increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease in men. No mechanism for the increase in the disease risk has been identified, and the fact that dairy products seem to increase the risk among men — but not women — remains a mystery. Epidemiologists do have theories on the link, however. Dr. Samuel Epstein, M.D., professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health is also author of the book, “What’s In Your Milk?” — a recently-published expose of how industry has covered up the dangers of drinking milk from cows treated with genetically-engineered recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), a chemical that has been banned for use in dairy cows in many other countries.
Milk from rBGH-treated cows, according to Dr. Epstein, poses a significant health risk to humans and appears to be linked to breast, colon and prostate cancers.