Pesticides in milk increase Parkinson’s disease incidence, a new study presented in thejournal Neurology has revealed.
Experts led by Robert Abbott, at the Shiga University of Medical Science in Otsu, Japan conducted an in-depth study in order to establish the far-reaching effects of the 1980’s contamination scandal which unfolded in Hawaii at the beginning of the 1980’s.
At the time, Del Monte, which is one of the largest manufacturers of canned fruit and vegetables in the world, was accused that its pesticides had tainted dairy milk being produced in Oahu.
The food company had been using an organochlorine chemical known as heptachlor epoxide so as to protect its pineapple crops from insects.
However, this extremely toxic substance, which can lead to cancer among animals, didn’t just succeed in killing unwelcome pests, but it also wreaked havoc to dairy farms.
Because local cows had consumed pineapple remnants on a regular basis, milk produced in the area had heptachlor concentrations which were up to 15 times higher than values accepted as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and beef had also been tainted with this dangerous chemical.
Even more alarmingly, nursing mothers residing close to the Oahu plantation had extremely elevated amounts of this substance in their breast milk, and it was suspected that other categories of the population had been affected as well.
Authors of this new study wanted to analyze the exact impact of heptachlor exposure, by reviewing data which had been collected while the crisis was unfolding.
During that period, a group of 8,000 male Japanese-Americans, with the median age of 54, had enrolled in a trial assessing the prevalence of cardiovascular disease between middle age until death, and a small percentage of them had donated brain tissue in order to advance medical research.
When 449 such samples were carefully investigated by researchers, it was determined that subjects who had consumed the largest amounts of milk had suffered the most significant disruptions in brain function.
Having more than 2 such drinks (the equivalent of more than 16 ounces), corresponded to much higher concentration of heptachlor in the brain, and also to a deterioration of neural networks, especially in brain regions linked to motor skills.
Overall, regular milk drinkers had experienced a 40% reduction in the number of neurons from the substantia nigra brain structure, and this is considered one of the most common signs of Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers were able to establish a potential cause and effect relationship between the two by determining that motor neurons had suffered a significant decline after the organochlorine substance had built up in the brain.
The only exception to this correlation was encountered among those who smoked cigarettes on a regular basis, and this fact has left researchers quite stumped.
Although it can’t be established with full certainty that heptachlor detected in the patients’ brains had actually originated from tainted milk, study authors are of the opinion that this is the most likely explanation.
Heptachlor sprayings have been discontinued almost entirely across the United States, but are still being used against fire ants, and this substance can linger in soil for as long as 14 years.
Researchers believe that their findings shouldn’t alarm milk drinkers that such a habit could potentially result in Parkinson’s disease.
However, consumers should become more aware of the dangers of food contamination, not just when it comes to short-term effects, but also when more pervasive, less obvious consequences are considered.
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