Can milk and dairy intake increase your risk of Parkinson disease?

Bottom Line:

  • Dairy intake (specifically low fat or skim milk) may be associated with a small increase in risk for Parkinson disease.

Why this matters:

Dairy products are widely consumed.  In 2016, 212.4 billion lbs of milk were produced in the United States. Previous studies have suggested a possible link between dairy intake and Parkinson disease.

Study Design:

  • 2 prospective cohort studies
    • Nurses Health Study (n=80,736) w/ 26 yr follow-up
    • Health Professionals Follow-up study (n=48,610) with 24 years of follow-up
  • Meta-analysis of current study plus 4 previously published studies

Key Findings:

  • Main analysis: association between total dairy and Parkinson disease not significant
    • But, looking at low-fat dairy foods, >3 servings per day vs < 1  were associated with 34% (HR 1.34, 95% CI 1.01-1.79, p = 0.04)  higher risk of Parkinson disease.
    • Drinking one serving per day of skim or low-fat milk had a 39% higher risk of Parkinson disease versus less than 1 serving per week.
  • Interestingly, there was a significant linear trend for decreased risk of Parkinson disease with increased intake of high-fat dairy.
  • The meta-analysis of pooling the results for total milk intake in the current study with 3 previous studies showed 56% increased risk for Parkinson Disease. Also, pooling the results for total dairy intake with 1 previously published study showed 27% higher risk for Parkinson disease.
  • NOTE: overall risk of Parkinson disease was very low.
    • Of the 5,830 people who consumed 3 or more servings daily of low-fat dairy at the start of the study, only 60 people (1%), developed the disease over the study period.
    • Of the 77,864 people who consumed less than one serving per day of low-fat dairy, 483 people (0.6%), developed Parkinson disease.


  • It is important to understand this is a correlation study and not causation study.  The data on dairy intake is collected via surveys and there can be recall bias and respondent bias.


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Sean Hashmi MD
Articles: 56

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