Joan Rothchild Hardin
Low Fat Dairy & Parkinson's Disease
A recently published study led by Dr Katherine C. Hughes at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health provides evidence of a positive correlation between consumption of low-fat dairy products and risk of developing Parkinson’s, a serious autoimmune disease. Subjects who consumed three or more servings of low-fat dairy a day were found to have a 34% greater risk of developing Parkinson’s compared to those who consumed less than one serving a day. Dr Hughes study is the largest analysis of dairy and Parkinson’s to date. (Hughes, 2017) & (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 2017) The researchers analyzed 25 years of data collected on 80,736 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and 48,610 men enrolled in the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study. During the course of the study, 1,036 people developed Parkinson’s.
The researchers noted the types of dairy products each person consumed, including milk, cream, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter, margarine and sherbet. No increased risk for Parkinson’s was found in people who consumed full-fat dairy (as whole milk).
When the researchers looked specifically at skim and low-fat milk consumption, they found a 39% greater risk of developing Parkinson’s compared to those who consumed less than one serving a week. Eating frozen yogurt and sherbet was also linked to a modest increased risk. (American Academy of Neurology, 2017)
“While total dairy intake was not significantly associated with PD risk in our cohorts, intake of low-fat dairy foods was associated with PD risk…. This association appeared to be driven by an increased risk of PD associated with skim and low-fat milk.” (Hughes, 2017)
So what could account for this increased risk for developing Parkinson’s and consumption of skim and low-fat milk? WHY FULL FAT DAIRY IS HEALTHIER THAN LOW & NON-FAT
For decades we’ve been told to avoid full fat dairy in favor of low and non-fat options – to the great detriment of our health.
Our bodies need a high percentage of fat to survive and thrive. This means we need to eat healthy fats, not low or no-fat processed foods.
A study published last year in the journal Circulation sheds light on one example of this need for adequate fat intake. It concerned the consumption of dairy fat and risk of diabetes.
The study’s researchers tested the hypothesis that the higher the amount of circulating fatty acid bio-markers of dairy fat, the lower the incidence of diabetes mellitus.
Results showed that people with the highest circulating bio-markers of full-fat dairy products had a 46% lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared to people who consumed less full-fat dairy. This was a big, well-designed study of over 3,300 people. (Axe, 2017A) & (Yakoob et al, 2016)
DANGERS OF A LOW FAT DIET
Many seriously adverse effects result from consuming a low or no-fat diet. This information is from Dr Josh Axe. (Axe, 2017B)
Poor Brain Function
Our brains consist largely of fat and need a steady supply of fatty acids to perform well. Adequate cholesterol, in particular, is essential for good brain functioning and avoiding ‘brain fog’.
Research findings are clear that people having the highest cholesterol level intakes perform better than those with lower levels on cognitive function tests measuring abstract reasoning, attention/concentration, word fluency, and executive functioning.
Compromised Heart Health
Heart disease is the result of chronic inflammation in the body (the root of most diseases), not a result of high fat or cholesterol intake. An inflammatory diet of sugar, refined carbs, low-quality proteins, and processed vegetable oils will make you sicker than a diet high in fat intake – even saturated fats.
Furthermore, a strong relationship between cholesterol levels and heart disease has never been proven and the idea that they’re related is apparently based on faulty data. In fact, eating anti-inflammatory foods containing healthy fats is good for your heart.
Hormone Imbalances (Including Testosterone and Estrogen)
Consuming enough healthy fats is an important way to balance your hormones naturally. Cholesterol and other fats play an essential part in building cellular membranes and hormones. Many fats, including cholesterol, serve as anti-oxidants and precursors to important brain-supporting molecules and neurotransmitters.
A low-fat diet can cause infertility and menstrual problems in women. A 2007 study at the Department of Nutrition and Harvard School of Public Health found a connection between high intake of low-fat diary foods and infertility, while intake of high-fat dairy foods lowered this risk.
Weight Gain and Overeating
Considerable research has shown a relationship between fat intake, hormones, and weight fluctuations. Many people who ‘diet’ tend to gain back all their lost weight rather quickly. Studies have found that a higher-fat diet with lower carb intake helps prevent this rebound weight gain. Also, we generally find meals higher in fat to be more satisfying and satiating than meals that are low-fat. The reason for this is that fats turn on our fat-burning switch by impacting ghrelin hormone levels.
Look at any of the recent research involving weight gain (or loss) and fat intake, and you’ll quickly realize the established relationship between fat intake, your hormones and weight fluctuations. We know that many people who go on “diets” tend to gain back all of the weight shortly after. Why does this happen?
A 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared the effects of three popular diets on overweight and obese young adults.
Each of the diets provided the same number of calories but different proportions of fat, protein, and carbs.
The ‘low-fat diet’ consisted of 60% calories from carbs, 20% from fat, and 20% from protein
The ‘low-glycemic diet’ had 40% calories from carbs, 40% from fat, and 20% from protein.
The ‘low-carb diet’ had 10% calories from carbs, 60% from fat, and 30% from protein.
Those on the low-carb/high fat diet (#3) burned the most calories and also improved their insulin sensitivity.
Higher Risk of Insulin Resistance and Diabetes
Insulin is often referred to as our ‘fat-storing hormone’. Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated that excess weight and insulin problems are highly related. Eating plenty of healthy fats is key to preventing insulin resistance and controlling diabetes.
Different types of fat have different effects on insulin action. Since insulin resistance is a precursor to developing diabetes and heart disease, consuming adequate amounts of the right kinds of fat is necessary if you want to avoid being part of the ‘diabesity’ epidemic – or are already insulin resistant and want to improve your health.
Higher Risk for Depression and Anxiety
“Fatty acids play an important role in higher brain functions that control moods, so eating enough healthy fat sources is one key to following an anti-depression diet. Some neurotransmitters, such as endocannabinoids, are synthesized from fatty acids, suggesting that fatty acid metabolites derived from dietary fat can affect the central nervous system.
“While it appears that trans-fat intake can raise depression risk, studies have found an inverse association between consuming MUFA, PUFA and olive oil fats and depression risk. In other words, higher-fat diets might lower depression and other mental disorder risks. Research has shown, for example, that supplemental PUFAs and specifically omega-3 fatty acids in the diet cause significant improvement in depressive symptoms in humans. In fact, it’s now believed that use of omega-3 PUFA supplements is effective in treating patients with diagnosis of major depressive disorder.”
MUFAs = mono-unsaturated fatty acids, plant-based fats found in avocado, nuts, seeds, oils, olives, and dark chocolate. These fats enhance heart health and protect against chronic disease.
PUFAs = poly-unsaturated fatty acids are fatty acids that contain more than one double bond in their backbone. This class includes many important compounds, such as essential fatty acids. Foods containing PUFAs include walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and flax oil, fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, and trout), corn oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil.
There is a bi-directional pathway between the gut and the brain called the Gut-Brain Axis that allows the gut and brain to communicate with one another to maintain homeostasis throughout the body. Rather important, no?
Higher-fat, high-fiber diets promote a healthy gut microbiome. Our brains require an adequate supply of fatty acids to function well. A diet stressing naturally occurring, healthy fatty acids and nutrients creates the building blocks that nourish both a healthy gut and a healthy brain – and allows good communication between them.
FATS WE NEED TO BE HEALTHY
Adequate levels of healthy fats are required for the proper absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins found in many plants – including vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fats also help us feel satisfied after eating. And, most healthy sources of fat are actually fat-burners. (Axe, 2017B)
FAT AS FUEL
Dr Joseph Mercola’s 2017 book, Fat for Fuel, A Revolutionary Diet to Combat Cancer, Boost Brain Power, and Increase Your Energy, presents evidence for why we’d be wise to consume more and better fats. Amazon.com’s description of the book: “For over a century, we’ve accepted the scientific consensus that cancer results from genetic disease due to chromosomal damage in cell nuclei. But what if cancer isn’t a genetic disease after all? What if scientists are chasing a flawed paradigm, and cancer isn’t a disease of damaged DNA but rather of defective metabolism as a result of mitochondrial dysfunction? What if that startling truth could revolutionize our understanding of other diseases as well—and show us a radical new path to optimal health?
“In this groundbreaking guide, the first of its kind, New York Times best-selling author and leading natural-health practitioner Joseph Mercola explains how nearly all disease is caused by defective metabolic processes. Then he reveals what’s really causing your metabolism to go haywire: damage and dysfunction in the mitochondria, thousands of which are at work in nearly every cell in your body, generating 90 percent of the energy you need to stay alive and well. When mitochondria become damaged in large numbers, it is impossible to stay healthy.
“Dr. Mercola shows you that you can take control of your health simply by giving your body the proper fuel—and it’s not what you’ve likely been led to believe. A ketogenic diet, very low in carbohydrates and high in healthy fats, is the way to optimize the biochemical pathways that suppress disease and support healing. And the benefits can be astonishing—not only in treating or preventing serious illness, but in boosting your brainpower, increasing your energy, helping you lose weight and keep it off, and much more.
“As you read this book, you’ll learn in clear, rational terms how your body works at a molecular level. You’ll finally understand the type of fuel it’s designed to burn in the most efficient way possible. You’ll find detailed guidelines for starting and sticking with a ketogenic eating plan. And you won’t have to wait a decade or two for metabolic mitochondrial therapy to make its way into the mainstream. You can build a healthier body and brain at the cutting edge of this exciting new discipline, starting right now.” Many thanks to Richard Boenigk for bringing this research study to my attention.
American Academy of Neurology (AAN). (6/7/2017). Does consuming low-fat dairy increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease?. ScienceDaily. See: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170607223327.htm
Axe, J. (2017A). The Dangers of Low-Fat Dairy. See: https://draxe.com/low-fat-dairy/
Axe, J. (2017B). 7 Low-Fat Diet Risks You Need to Know About! See: https://draxe.com/low-fat-diet-risks/
Hughes, K.C. et al. (2017). Intake of dairy foods and risk of Parkinson disease. Neurology. 89: 1-7. Reported in PubMed. See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/articles/28596209/
Mercola, J. (2017). Fat for Fuel, A Revolutionary Diet to Combat Cancer, Boost Brain Power, and Increase Your Energy. See: https://www.amazon.com/Fat-Fuel-Revolutionary-Combat-Increase/dp/1401953778
Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. (6/7/2017). Low-Fat Dairy Foods Associated with Modest Increased Risk of Parkinson’s. See: http://www.pdf.org/news/low-fat-dairy-foods-associated-modest-increased-risk-parkinson’s
Yakoob, M.Y. et al. (2016). Circulating Biomarkers of Dairy Fat and Risk of Incident Diabetes Mellitus Among Men and Women in the United States in Two Large Prospective Cohorts. Circulation. 133(17):1645-54. Reported in PubMed. See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27006479 © Copyright 2017. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Comments submitted prior to 8/25/2021
Fascinating! I’ll buy organic milk, cheese, cream cheese and butter next time I shop! I’ve been having avocado toast on a very grainy whole grain bread, no other fat, and just a little pink Himalayan salt sprinkled on top. Sometimes I add some chopped walnuts. Divine!
In reply to Sonnisch
That’s very good news! Your body will be glad. You might also want to try butter made from the milk of pasture-raised, grass fed cows. Kerrygold makes a lovely version – as well as a variety of cheeses from that same milk.
And since I know you’re trying to clean up your diet, how about getting Kerrygold’s UNSALTED butter to lower your intake of refined salt. You can always sprinkle a little sea salt on your toast if you want a hit of salt. My fave is Himalayan pink sea salt. Here are my two
posts on sea salts vs refined table salt.
THE HEALING PROPERTIES OF UNREFINED SALTS
SEA SALTS VS WHITE TABLE SALT
You may read that Kerrygold isn’t made from 100% pastured cow’s milk. This thoughtful article addresses that:
KERRYGOLD BUTTER: TO BUY OR NOT
Your version of avocado toast sounds delish! To your health,
In reply to Joan Rothchild Hardin
I’ll get some Kerrygold butter and cheese. We already buy unsalted butter. That article was very interesting. I wish we had a Costco up here in NE PA but alas, we don’t.