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Dairy intake may increase risk of Parkinson’s disease in European men

Dairy intake may increase risk of Parkinson’s disease  in men, according to investigators. Men of European ancestry with a genetic marker predicting dairy consumption had significantly greater risk of Parkinson’s disease than individuals without the marker, suggesting a causal relationship between dairy intake and Parkinson’s disease, lead author Cloe Domenighetti, MSc, a PhD student at UVSQ, Université Paris Sud, and colleagues reported.

“Previous studies highlighted dairy intake as a risk factor of Parkinson’s disease,” the investigators wrote in Movement disorders . “A meta analysis  of prospective studies reported a 40% increased Parkinson’s disease risk in participants with the highest intake. It is unclear whether the association is causal or explained by confounding or reverse causation, given the long prodromal phase of Parkinson’s disease.”

A Mendelian Randomization Study

The investigators evaluated this link by comparing 9,823 cases of Parkinson’s disease with 8,376 controls, all individuals of European ancestry from the Courage-Parkinson’s disease consortium, comprising 23 studies. Data were analyzed by two-sample Mendelian randomization, a technique that uses genotype to predict behavior, thereby replacing conventional methods of capturing behavior, such as questionnaires. In this case, the investigators screened all participants for rs4988235, a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) upstream of the lactase gene that is well documented to predict dairy intake among individuals of European ancestry.

“Mendelian randomization uses genetic variants associated with exposures as instrumental variables to estimate causal relationships between exposures and outcomes,” the investigators wrote. “Mendelian randomization analyses are less likely to be biased by confounding or reverse causation than observational studies if a set of assumptions are met.”

The approach uncovered a significant association between rs4988235 and Parkinson’s disease, with a 70% increase in disease risk per one serving of dairy per day (odds ratio, 1.70; 95% confidence interval, 1.12-2.60; P = .013). Further analysis revealed that this finding was driven by men, who had a 2.5-fold increased risk of Parkinson’s disease per one serving per day (OR, 2.50; 95% CI, 1.37-4.56; P = .003) versus women, among whom there was no significant association (OR, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.56-1.92; P = .91). No significant associations were observed among individuals grouped by age or Parkinson’s disease duration.

“Our findings suggest that dairy intake increases Parkinson’s disease risk,” the investigators concluded. “Therefore, diets with limited milk intake (e.g., Mediterranean diet) may be beneficial with respect to Parkinson’s disease.”

Further Evidence Supporting a Link Between Diet and Parkinson’s Disease

According to Silke Appel-Cresswell MD, Marg Meikle Professor for Parkinson’s Research at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, the findings align with previous prospective cohort studies demonstrating an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease with greater consumption of dairy.

“What the current study adds,” Appel-Cresswell said, “is a complementary approach to assess the association where the risk of reverse causation and of confounding are minimized. Like in some of the previous studies, the authors find sex differences with an increased risk for men but not women.”

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