There are four things that may reduce our risk of developing Parkinson’s disease: increase exercise, and avoid dairy products, pesticides, and head trauma (please wear your seatbelt and bike helmet!).
What about avoiding pesticides and other industrial pollutants? A recent autopsy study found higher levels in the brains of Parkinson’s victims of certain PCBs found in Monsanto’s Aroclor, which was banned in 1979. The more PCBs found in the brain, the worse the brain damage. The worst three appeared to be PCBs 138, 153, and 180, all of which are significantly lower in the bodies of those eating plant-based diets (seeIndustrial Pollutants in Vegans).
So, does a vegan diet reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease? If you watch my 3-min video Preventing Parkinson’s Disease With Diet you’ll see that every prospective study looking at dairy products and Parkinson’s disease found an increased risk associated with consumption. This may be because dairy products in the United States are contaminated with neurotoxic chemicals. Autopsy studies consistently find higher levels of pollutants in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients, and some of these toxins are present at low levels in dairy products.
Tetrahydroisoquinoline is one such parkinsonism-related toxin found predominantly in cheese. Although the amounts of this neurotoxin—even in cheese—are not very high, the concern is that the chemical may accumulate in the brain over long periods of consumption resulting in the brain damage associated with Parkinson’s diease.