Diet plays role in Parkinson's

December 17, 2002 in Nutrition Topics in the News

Diet plays role in Parkinson's

Men--but not women--who eat a lot of dairy products appear to have a slightly higher risk of developing Parkinson's disease, but researchers cautioned that more study is needed to confirm the finding.

Scientists from Harvard School of Public Health said that even if diet played a role in the development of Parkinson's disease, it would likely be only one of many factors. Consequently, cutting back on dairy may not affect risk of Parkinson's disease in men, and may increase their risk of other conditions linked to low calcium and vitamin D.

Parkinson's disease is multi-factorial. Diet, if it plays a role in Parkinson's disease, is going to be one of the factors that predispose a person to Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's disease causes tremor, muscle rigidity and movement problems. The underlying cause is the slow loss of neurons that produce dopamine, a brain chemical involved in movement. The exact cause of Parkinson's disease has eluded the research community since the condition first appeared, and many suspect a combination of environmental factors, genetics and aging are at work.

In the newest study into an understanding of the role of food in Parkinson's, the Harvard researchers found that men who ate the most dairy products had a higher chance of developing Parkinson's than did men who ate the least dairy products. The biggest dairy lovers ate at least 3 servings a day, while the lowest consumers said they downed less than 1 serving per day.

Although the association between dairy products and the risk of Parkinson's disease appeared strong, the researchers need to confirm this finding in other studies, and understand more about how these ingredients might raise risk before recommending that men scale back on dairy.

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