Low fat (but not full fat) dairy associated with increased risk of Parkinson’s disease

Read time: 4.5 minutes (850 words)

Intro

MedPage Today [full article here] drew my attention to a recent Harvard study published in the journal Neurology [abstract herewhich took a closer look at previously identified associations between dairy products and Parkinsons Disease. Their analyses were based on data from two large prospective cohort studies, the Nurses’ Health Study (n = 80,736) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (n = 48,610), with a total of 26 and 24 years of follow-up, respectively. An previous study (see below) found an increased risk of Parkinson’s with higher levels of dairy protein consumption.

The latest study looked more carefully at the different types of dairy product. They found that among those who ate 3 or more portions of low fat dairy per day (skimmed milk, low fat cheese and yogurt etc) 4 in 1000 went on to develop Parkinson’s disease, whereas among those who ate no portions of low fat dairy only 3 in 1000 developed the disease.

Comparing the two groups that equates to a roughly 33% increased relative risk. Of course that is only a rather piffling 0.1% absolute risk increase – hardly anything to worry about in the grand scheme of things. What makes this study interesting, however, is that the association did not exist for full fat dairy products only low fat ones.

Uric acid and Parkinson’s disease

The study’s authors speculate that the increased risk seen in the low fat milk group may be due to the ability of milk protein (casein and lactalbumin) to reduce uric acid levels. Parkinson’s disease and uric acid? I wasn’t aware of this link, so started digging into the research…

A particularly helpful review in Practical Neurology [Uric Acid’s Relationship with Stroke and Parkinson’s Disease: A Review] filled me in on the background.

It turns out that there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating an association between low uric acid levels and incidence of Parkinson’s disease. Not only do Parkinson’s sufferers tend to have have low levels of uric acid, but those with higher levels have slower and less aggressive progression of the disease. Importantly, some studies have identified that low uric acid levels four years prior to the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms has a stronger association than levels at onset of symptoms, suggesting that uric acid is linked to the  pathogenesis of Parkinson’s.

Uric acid BTW is an intriguing endogenous antioxidant which although primarily synthesised by the body is also influenced by diet. Excess levels can lead to the formation of crystals which is the basis of the painful condition gout, but can also contribute to kidney stones and kidney damage. Foods containing purines, such as shellfish, offal, meat and beer, can raise uric acid levels, as can alcohol and fructose, so should be avoided if you suffer from gout or kidney stones. The idea that such foods may be protective against Parkinson’s is interesting (although clearly one would not want to go as far as to cause gout!) On the other hand, dairy, cherries and vitamin C are associated with lower risk of gout and are classed as hypouricemic foods as they reduce uric acid levels.

It is believed that uric acid may exert a neuro-protective effect through it’s antioxidant action:

It has been hypothesized that uric acid reduces oxidative stress on neurons. This may have a significant bearing on therapeutic management of disease, as many neurological disorders are believed to result from oxidative stress. As a potentially modifiable risk factor, the prospect for uric acid and its derivatives to play a role in disease modification or prevention has great potential. – Pello et al, 2009

Studies looking at dietary associations with Parkinson’s disease have identified that uric acid lowering foods (e.g. dairy) are always associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s, except for one. Vitamin C is the only uric acid lowering nutrient associated with reduced Parkinson’s risk: possibly because it is a powerful anti-oxidant itself.

Results from an earlier analysis of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study found clear trends indicating reduced incidence of Parkinson’s disease with increasing consumption of fructose and alcohol (uric acid raising foods) and an increased risk with higher levels of dairy protein consumption (a uric acid lowering food) Adapted from Xiang Gao et al, 2008

Full fat dairy

In the new study the increased risk for Parkinson’s disease was only associated with low fat dairy, not full fat. Why wasn’t full fat dairy associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s?

For now there is no clear answer, but according to MedPage Today the authors of the study say “The lack of association with full-fat dairy products could be due to a countervailing effect of saturated fats. I think more research is needed to better understand the mechanisms involved in this association,”

The benefits of dairy fats have come up time and again, yet I still know many people who avoid full fat milk, cream, cheese and butter. See our posts:

Bottom Line

The size of the increased absolute risk of Parkinson’s disease associated with consuming low fat dairy products (0.1%) is too small to make it a reason in and of itself to avoid low fat dairy – unless of course, you have a family history of the disease in which case every bit of risk reduction helps.

For all of us, however, this study adds to the evidence of the benefits of full fat over low-fat dairy.

References

  • Intake of dairy foods and risk of Parkinson diseaseKatherine C. Hughes et al, Neurology, June 2017 [Abstract]
  • Low-Fat Dairy Linked to Small Increased Risk for PDKate Kneisel, Contributing Writer, MedPage Today, June 2017 [Full article]
  • Uric Acid’s Relationship with Stroke and Parkinson’s Disease: A Review Scott Pello et al, Practical neurology, Jul/Aug 2009 [Full article]
  • Diet, Urate, and Parkinson’s Disease Risk in Men, Xiang Gao et al, American journal of epidemiology, 2008 [PMC full text]

In the News

  • Why you’re better off eating FULL fat dairy: Consuming three or more portions of the low fat variety of yoghurt, milk or cheese raises the risk of Parkinson’s disease, Daily Mail [Online Article]
  • Low-fat milk linked to Parkinson’s risk, The Times [Online Article]

May News Round-Up

In_the_News_May · Cancers and sugar
· Nuts reduce colon cancer
· Bone broth keeps skin young
· Cinnamon reduces belly fat
· Ketogenic diet controls diabetes
· Cheese is (un)surprisingly healthy
· More protein for elderly
· Tick born diseases on the rise

Some cancers are more dependant on sugar

Very low carb diets have shown some efficacy in cancer treatment as many cancers have a high dependence on glucose and low metabolic flexibility, making ketogenic diets a potential treatment adjunct. A new study has found that some cancers have higher reliance on glucose than others. (News Medical May 26th) . Lead author Dr. Jung-whan, said:

“As a culture, we are very addicted to sugar. Excessive sugar consumption is not only a problem that can lead to complications like diabetes, but also, based on our studies and others, the evidence is mounting that some cancers are also highly dependent on sugar. We’d like to know from a scientific standpoint whether we might be able to affect cancer progression with dietary changes.”

It still amazes me that such authors say ‘sugar’ when they mean ‘glucose’. The above quotation would lead most people to think that added sugar was the issue, whereas all carbohydrate – especially grains and potatoes – raise blood glucose and should be avoided if such diets are to be helpful.

Tree nuts, but not peanuts, linked to lower colon cancer recurrence

A study tracking patients with stage 3 colon cancer found that those eating more tree nuts had half the incidence of recurrence and half the chance of death, than those that ate few tree nuts (Business Insider UK, 17th May)  The effect was not observed for peanuts which are not a true nut, but a legume.

Bone broth & collagen

The Huff Post (9th May) has a nice article about bone broth, collagen and skin ageing. The recipe they give at the end is more chicken soup compared to my own bone broth, and it omits vinegar – a crucial ingredient if you want to extract the maximum mineral content from the bones.

Cinnamon improved antioxidant status and reduced belly fat in mouse study

The Mail Online (8th May) reports on a study that feeding mice cinnamon along with an obesogenic diet reduced inflammation, weight gain and accumulation of abdominal fat. The cinnamon also reduced stomach temperature by 2°C which aids digestion and “This in turn avoids damage to the stomach’s lining, reducing inflammation and many diseases of the guts, said experts at RMIT University’s School of Engineering in Melbourne.” Well I never!

Pasta sales down as Italians avoid ‘for health reasons’

The Express (May 25th) explains that pasta sales in Italy have fallen as many Italians now avoid carbs and gluten. I am not surprised as Italy is at the epicentre of gluten research with many of the worlds leading studies being carried out by their researchers  (See our post Why No One Should Eat Grains Part 2: the definitive guide to Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity)

Ketogenic diet ‘naturally controls diabetes’ (you don’t say!)

The Express (May 16th) has a surprising little article explaining that a high fat, low carb (ketogenic diet) can reverse diabetes. Yes. I have implemented it successfully with my patients and it works.

Cheese – a rising health star

A nice article in the Mail Online (May 23rd) explaining the research around cheese. A similar article is also available in The Times (May 26th – subscription)

Vitamin D round up

Tick born infections set to explode

The US is predicting a bad year for tick born infections. Such infections, including Lyme disease, is on the rise in the UK too. News Medical (May 27th) explains how to check for ticks after being outdoors. “Everyone who spends time outdoors, even just playing in the backyard, should perform a daily check.”

Study finds fennel is effective in reducing postmenopausal symptoms

Science Daily (May 17th) reports on this placebo controlled triple blind study, along with a subtitle that is a rare admission:

Herbal medicine grows in popularity because of its effectiveness without serious side effects

Despite being a well run study, the authors fail to say which part of the fennel plant they are using. Duh! The seeds, leaves, roots, flowers, bark… that’s herbal medicine 101. All parts are not equal! In the case of fennel all parts are at least non toxic (but with something like rhubarb, think again, roots, stems and leaves all have very different compounds and effects).

RDA of protein for older people is too low

There is a growing body of evidence that points to reduced mortality in the elderly when daily protein intake is increased – primarily because it reduces muscle loss which otherwise contributes to falls. Stuart Phillips of McMaster University in Canada argues for improved guidelines. ‘He argues that there should be a stronger focus on leucine; an indispensable amino acid and building block for proteins. The elderly have a higher need for leucine to build muscle proteins, and milk-based proteins (e.g. milk and whey) are a good source for this.’  News Medical (May 24th) Interestingly, Dr Phillips discusses his own diet:

“I enjoy a variety of foods, and the only thing I specifically focus on is limiting my intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates. But of course, given the benefits of proteins, they are a big part of what I think about when planning my meals.”

Cauliflowers are tasty and nutritious (plus recipes)

Hardly news, but thank you to The Telegraph (May 4th) for reminding us that it improves brain health, reduces cancer risk, unclogs arteries and helps with weight loss. The best bit is they provide some great recipes at the end!

Recipe of the month

Here’s a recipe that makes good use of a couple of the ideas in this month’s post. Bon appetite! –

Gluten-free diet MAY be unhealthy and MAY increase risk of heart attack (or not)

OK, so I made up the quote above, but it captures a certain zeitgeist that’s in the air right now. The media is all too keen to uncritically give gluten-free and clean diets a kicking at the moment, wagging fingers at all those ‘silly people’ who fell for the anti-gluten message even though they don’t have coeliac disease – what fools!

Except, as we have explained in multiple articles on this site, gluten has a far greater reach than that 1% who have classic coeliac disease. Non coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a recognised and studied condition, with an estimated prevalence of up to 6% of the population.

And even a cursory look behind these dismissive headlines shows that the studies they are based on add almost nothing to our understanding of gluten pathology, and indeed contradict themselves. Continue reading

What a shop!

This is a charming and quite unique shop that I stumbled upon recently in Hastings Old Town – and a great example of creative enterprise. The building is nearly 200 years old, having been built entirely of timber as a soda bottling warehouse. In 2008 it was purchased by the current owners who set about lovingly restoring it, removing decades of inappropriate modernising, stripping it back to the original timber structure whilst installing period pieces: reclaimed radiators, sanitary ware and Victorian pine match-boarding.

The shop sells all manner of household items: practical, basic, original and curious. This Aladins cave provided my family with a good half an hour of fascinated browsing, which could have gone on far longer if closing time had not descended upon us, but we came away with several strangely exciting purchases.

One of the stand out features of the shop is the panoply of different brushes hanging from the ceilings, jutting from cabinets and hung neatly on racks: feather dusters, bottle brushes, brooms, pot scrubbers, back scratchers, conical, spirallic and even a double headed brush specifically for computers: one side for dusting the screen and the other for the keyboard.

I was so impressed with the computer brush I bought one (above) and it does the job really well. the fluffier, longer side being kind to the screen and the brisker, shorter side, removing those pesky specs of ? from between the keys. Not cheap but I know it will be used on an almost daily basis, and I don’t think it will ‘go wrong’. Yes, it is all natural. The shop carries nothing made of plastic at all, and I think I could feel that as I stepped in!

Here are the scissors I bought. I have been needing some really good kitchen scissors, especially for dealing with poultry, and these have proved better than any scissors I have used before.

I hope you enjoy drinking in the photos below, and put this shop on your ‘places to visit’ list. The shop’s website details are at the end, and some of the other services they offer will surprise you…

(Click on any images below to view this gallery full screen)

A G Hendy and Co have their own great website for further exploration where I discovered they offer far more than was evident during my visit:

  • Accommodation with box beds, tin baths, no wifi or TV.
  • Courses in cooking and photography
  • Restaurant, with home cooked local food (fresh Hastings fish)
  • An online shop where you can purchase some of their wares

Vaxxed – the film, coming to a venue near me!

Last year a film was made about some of the troublesome issues around vaccination that most people are not aware of, and the film is now going to be shown in Bosham, near Chichester, at the end of this week.

No doubt you are all aware that a vigorous debate has been going on for decades about the pros and cons of vaccines in general and the way vaccines are promoted in particular. We all hear the mantras about them being ‘safe and effective’ through all the main media outlets, and yet concerns remain.

I have not seen this film yet but intend to be there and encourage others to come too. Let’s hear some of the issues discussed, exposed or disputed by those who were so exercised about the subject that they went to the trouble of making a film about it. It was due to be premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in March 2016, but apparently pressure was successfully applied to have it withdrawn, nevertheless the cat is now out of the bag, and has made its way to West Sussex!

Being an advocate of free speech and open sharing of ideas, challenging or otherwise, and being a scientist who believes in following the evidence where it leads, without ideological interference, I would like to invite you to come with an open mind and find out what the ‘other side’ are saying. I doubt very much if their opinions would be permitted on the usual opinion providers, so it is good to support those brave enough to speak out against the ‘thought police’.

Date: Friday May 5th 2017

Venue: Hamblin Trust, Bosham House, Main Road, Bosham, Chichester, PO18 8PJ

Time: 7pm – 9pm

Cost: Donations appreciated for hire of film and venue. Suggested £5 per head.

April News Round-up

This month: Great British Beef Week Ketogenic diet in diabetes Low fat foods cause weight gain MUFA’s may extend life Olive oil helps reverse insulin resistance Fewer arterial plaques with Med diet BMJ article triggers saturates fat spat The perfect cuppa Conventional thinking on salt challenged again Health benefits of cheese


St George’s Day and Great British Beef Week

I held a St George’s Day party on Sunday 23rd (which is also, rather appropriately, Shakespeare’s birthday), and I served a traditional roast beef joint with parsnips and carrots. Turns out, without knowing it at the time, I was right on the money as April 23rd was the start of the Great British Beef week!

According to the Grimsby Telegraph (April 30th) this year was the seventh annual Great British Beef Week, run by The Ladies in Beef, an organisation of female beef farmers who care passionately about British beef. It’s purpose is to support the hard working British beef farmers, which is exactly what I did by purchasing a 3.5 kg organic beef joint from Goodwood – our local producer.

My St Goerge’s day roast beef looked like the one above (but without the Yorkie puds (wheat) and taties (American originally). Interestingly, the Goodwood butcher suggested that I do not season the joint – “Let the flavour of the meat speak for itself” he said, and it certainly did! The unseasoned joint was placed on a bed of thickly sliced onions rings and popped in an oven that had been pre-heated to its highest temperature. Once in, it was turned down to 140°C for 1hr 25 minutes. My guests were full of praise … very gratifying.

If you missed out during this year’s Great British Beef Week, don’t worry, you can cook it all year round!  The Telegraph (April 26th) has a range of British Beef recipes to inspire you (just avoid the ones that use gluten)

Ketogenic diet valuable in diabetes

Diabetes.co.uk (Mar 28th) reports on a trial, conducted by Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek who placed 262 overweight participants with type 2 diabetes on a ketogenic diet for 10 weeks (carb intake < 30g per day, increase fat, and modest protein). Key findings:

  • HbA1C levels dropped an average of 20%, with half returning to normal (non-diabetic) levels by the end of the study
  • 7.2% weight loss; 20% reduction in triglycerides
  • 60% had one or more medications reduced in number and dosage or, in some cases, discontinued altogether

A two year trial is in the pipeline.

Volek and Phinney have been working in this field for a couple of decades and have an excellent track record in low carb high fat science. They have at least two books on the subject, so please look at their work online.

Low fat foods can cause weight gain and lead to fatty liver disease

Low fat yogurt packaged as heart healthy, but it contains nearly 5 teaspoons of sugar per serving (see chart of sugar in other low fat foods)

In 2014 The Telegraph undertook a study which found that many low fat diet foods contained high levels of sugars. In one case a “low fat” meal contained almost six times the sugar levels of its “full fat” equivalent dish. Many people have suggested that the sugar may be less healthy than the fat it replaces, and now a new study reported in Medical Daily (April 26th) confirms this.

In the study mice that were fed a high-sugar, low-fat diet had an increase in liver fat, body weight, and body fat, despite consuming the same amount of calories as the control mice. Compared to mice fed a high fat diet, sugar calories were found to cause twice as much fat accumulation as the fat calories they replaced.

“Most so-called diet products containing low or no fat have an increased amount of sugar and are camouflaged under fancy names, giving the impression that they are healthy, but the reality is that those foods may damage the liver and lead to obesity as well,” said the study’s lead investigator, Krzysztof Czaja

Monounsaturated fats extend life in animal study

Eureka Alert (April 5th) reports on an intriguing study from Stanford University published in Nature, of longevity in roundworms which found that feeding them monounsaturated fat increased lifespan in a similar way to calorie restriction, despite the fact that they put on weight.

Monounsaturated fats are found in high levels in olive oil, rape seed and avocado oils, and also in beef fat and lard. Whilst mentioning olive oil a recent study has also shown that…

Olive oil helps reverse insulin resistance

The Express (April 11th) reports on a mouse study that showed a compound found in olive oil (hydroxytyrosol) can reverse insulin resistance and fatty liver induced by an obesogenic diet. This adds to research published in December 2016 that showed this compound also reduced oxidative damage in cells and may contribute to explaining some of the benefits of a Mediterranean diet…

Fewer arterial plaques with real-world adherence to Mediterranean Diet

Adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet showed a dose-dependent protective association with the presence, number, and thickness of atherosclerotic plaques independent of other risk factors, in a new study (Medscape, April 26th).

BMJ article triggers saturated fat spat

The Guardian (April 25th) gives a good account of the controversy taking place amongst scientists over recent claims and counterclaims over the health credentials surrounding saturated fat. Worth a read: Good for a laugh.

The Perfect Cuppa

The Mail Online (April 18th) reports on a study that found the beneficial compounds in tea are most available when the tea has been brewed for longer. The study author also found that adding milk does not reduce the availability of these compounds. He recommends drinking three cups per day.

Conventional thinking on salt challenged again… and again.

We have written several posts challenging conventional thinking on the supposed harms of salt (see here and here). So we were interested to read in The Independent (April 17th) that a study investigating a simulated mission to mars which kept 10 men sealed in living quarters and given a strictly controlled diet for a period of 205 days. Unexpectedly, when given a high salt diet the participants drank less but were also hungrier. The results were confirmed in mice too. It appears that although salty food leads to an initial thirst (hence salted peanuts in the pub) over the long term the total intake of water is less.

More news on salt front came in on April 26th, in The Express, with an article on a recent study looking at blood pressure and sodium intake. The researchers found the participants who consumed less than 2,500 milligrams of sodium a day – about the equivalent of 6g of salt, had higher blood pressure than participants who consumed higher amounts of sodium.

“We saw no evidence that a diet lower in sodium had any long-term beneficial effects on blood pressure. Our findings add to growing evidence that current recommendations for sodium intake may be misguided.”

Salt – good or bad?
Seems that worrying about it is more likely to raise your blood pressure than eating it!

Health Benefits of Cheese

Wow. April 2017 was quite the month for cheese news. Goggle (April 28th) celebrated the 256th birthday of Marie Harel, the creator of Camembert in 1791, with a Google Doodle which provided a slideshow showing the steps involved in making this famous cheese (take a look here). As an aside, I think Brie and Camembert are the same thing, just in different shapes. Any comments anyone…?

Meanwhile, yet another study showing the benefits of cheese made the headlines with The Mail (April 24th) claiming “Eating cheese could prevent you from getting liver cancer – and it may even help you to reach 100!” – weirdly due to it containing spermidine (?!?)

Spurred on by the spermidine The Telegraph (April 25th) went further, pushing out the cheese boat with ‘5 surprising health benefits of cheese’. Here are their headings to tempt you to read more…

  1. Boosts your immune system
  2. The secret to longer life?
  3. Prevents tooth decay
  4. Helps with weight loss
  5. Makes you smarter

Finally, The Huff Post UK (April 25th) went just a bit too far with “7 Perfectly Valid Reasons To Eat More Cheese”. But really, that’s just showing off. Lets just gaze at a picture of lots of lovely cheeses…

An important and often overlooked benefit of cheeses, is that many – especially aged varieties – contain the precious vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone 7. This is not the same as vitamin K which is found in green vegetables, but is bacterially produced in cheeses during fermentation, and is particularly high in Brie and Gouda.

In the body K2 functions to guide calcium to the skeletal tissue, and prevent it being deposited, or rather, dumped, in soft tissues such as the aorta and other blood vessels where it contributes to atherosclerosis (sclerosis means hardening)Calcium in the wrong place leads to ‘calcification’ and having enough K2 to prevent this is one of the reasons for cheeses being a ‘top food’ in my reckoning.

Although some people are allergic to cows milk, many find they can tolerate goat and sheep milk cheeses which are increasingly available. The true unfortunates are those that cannot even tolerate these dairy products and they will need a regular K2 supplementation. Without sufficient K2 osteoporosis and calcification will occur. Clearly not a good state of affairs, so bring on the cheese trolley!

Oxtail Caserole, country style

✓Gluten-free ✓Grain-free ✓Sugar free ✓Low-carb ✓Cow-Dairy-free

This dish was incredibly easy to make, and super delicious to eat! What more can one desire when it comes to food?

The Ox tail was from Goodwood Farm and consisted of all different sizes, as you would expect, from the tail of the animal. There was thick fat round one side of the larger pieces, which can be seen in these photos, and it tasted very good indeed. Real melt-in-the-mouth fat, not chewy tough stuff at all. And all I had to do was chuck it in some hot ghee (which is great for high heat cooking as it doesn’t burn, as butter would. See how I make ghee here), add some carrot and celery sticks, some red wine and bone broth, and, Bob’s your uncle, dinner! I didn’t have much time that evening so just flung some cauliflower in a pan to accompany this classic dish, and it was a perfect match.

  • About a kilo or so of oxtail (which, at Goodwood’s wholesale prices is only £4 per kilo, or Waitrose – not organic though – £6.99 per kilo)
  • Two or three large onions, chopped
  • A handful of organic carrots, cut into thick batons
  • A few sticks of organic celery, cut into thick batons
  • Ghee – a large chunk

Season the oxtail chunks with plenty of salt and pepper. In a large cast iron pan heat the ghee, add onions and gently fry for 5 minutes. Add the seasoned pieces of oxtail, gradually turning them as they brown. Sling in the carrots and celery, and let them feel the heat for some minutes, moving it all around slowly. Crack open a jar of bone broth (I must write up how to make this… watch this space) and add it to the pan, then chuck in a glass or two of organic red wine. Stir. Cover with the lid and pop the pot in the oven at about 140°C and leave for a couple of hours.

Done.

Gone!

Neanderthal Herbal Medicine

Our closest, extinct, cousins the Neanderthals are often thought of as thuggish and unsophisticated, but evidence over the last decade has began to challenge this picture, indicating that they had a broad range of skills, knowledge and, yes, sensitivity.

There is a lot of evidence from bone assemblages that Neanderthals often behaved as top predators, hunting a wide range of animals including deer, rhinoceroses, bisons and even brown bear. In this pursuit they were highly skilled and more successful than hyenas with whom they competed, indicating a high level of strategic intelligence and cooperation.

  • Read more about Neanderthal hunting prowess here: ScienceDaily

As well as a good knowledge of animal behaviour Neanderthals also used botanical material. Skeletons excavated in the 1950’s from Shanidar cave in northern Iraq indicate that Neanderthals buried their dead with flowers. These skeletons also showed evidence of injuries that had been tended and healed indicating that the sick and wounded had been cared for effectively. Continue reading