Coffee consumption and Parkinson’s disease

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This is the third blog post on coffee consumption and neurodegenerative disorders, covering research into coffee consumption and Parkinson’s disease, with further information also available on Coffee and Health.

Coffee and Parkinson’s disease
Almost 1.2 million people are estimated to have Parkinson’s disease (PD) in Europe, with about 75,000 new cases diagnosed each year. The age of onset of PD is typically over 60, but it is estimated that one in ten people with PD are diagnosed before the age of 50, with more men than women affected.

PD is a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder. It is characterised by the slowing down of motor function, resting tremor, muscular rigidity, gait disturbances, and postural reflex impairment. Parkinson’s disease results from the progressive damage of dopaminergic neurons in the midbrain, responsible for neurotransmission. There is currently no treatment available to either prevent, or slow, this neuronal loss and the resulting dopamine (a neurotransmitter) decrease in the midbrain.

Current experimental and epidemiological research has focused on lifestyle, dietary and environmental risk factors, including coffee consumption.

Caffeine in coffee reduces, or delays, the development of Parkinson’s disease
A large number of epidemiological studies point to a protective role of coffee/caffeine consumption in the development of PD. Coffee consumption reduces, or delays, the development of PD with caffeine the most likely causal factor. In women, however, the interaction between caffeine and hormonal therapy still needs further clarification.

As early as 1968, a study reported a higher percentage of non-coffee consumers in the control compared to the affected group. Subsequent studies performed in Spain, Sweden and Germany found that coffee consumers were less likely to develop PD, and, those who did, had a lower coffee consumption before disease onset.

A large study of 8,004 Japanese American men living in Hawaii, followed up for 27 years, found that those who consumed more than four cups of coffee a day were five times less likely to develop PD than non-coffee drinkers. The association was similar for caffeine from non-coffee sources.

Two meta-analyses, including 20 and 26 studies correspondingly, reported that regular coffee drinkers were at lower risk of developing PD than non-coffee drinkers. With every 300mg increase in caffeine intake (the equivalent of three regular cups of caffeinated coffee), the risk of PD fell by 24-32%, confirming a strong link between caffeine intake and reduced risk of PD, that cannot be explained by bias or confounding factors.

The relationship between coffee/caffeine consumption and PD risk is less clear in women. One study found that moderate consumption was the most protective. One large study of 77,713 women, followed up for 18 years, reported that in those not taking postmenopausal hormones, coffee was as protective against PD as in men. In women taking estrogens, the risk for PD was similar to men’s at a low coffee consumption, but notably increased in women drinking six or more cups of coffee a day, compared to non-coffee drinkers.

Recent experimental studies have also acknowledged a mechanism of action for caffeine’s preventative role in the development of PD.

For more information on coffee and Parkinson’s Disease, and to view information sources, click here.

In addition to this, to see Dr Astrid Nehlig, Research Director from the French National Medical Research Institute (INSERM), discuss the latest research on the relationship between coffee drinking and neurodegenerative disorders with Dr Sarah Schenker, Registered Dietitian, view our vodcast here.

This information is intended for Healthcare professional audiences.
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