Coffee is the most widely consumed psychostimulant worldwide. Emerging evidence indicates that coffee consumption habit significantly reduces the risk of developing Parkinson's disease (PD). However, the effect of coffee consumption on nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurodegeneration is still largely unknown. We therefore aim to investigate the role of coffee consumption in nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurodegeneration using dopamine transporter (DAT) imaging in PD and healthy controls (HC).
A total of 138 PD patients and 75 HC with questionnaires about coffee consumption, and DAT scans were recruited from the Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative cohort. Demographic, clinical, and striatal DAT characteristics were compared across subgroups of current, former, and never coffee consumers in PD and HC, respectively. Furthermore, partial correlation analyses were performed to determine whether there was a relationship between coffee cups consumed per day and striatal DAT characteristics in each striatal region. In addition, the factors that may have influenced the loss of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons were included in multiple linear regression analyses to identify significant contributing factors to DAT availability in each striatal region.
PD patients had lower DAT availability in each striatal region than HC (p < 0.001). In PD patients, there were significant differences in DAT availability in the caudate (p = 0.008, Bonferroni corrected) across three PD subgroups. Specifically, post hoc tests showed that current coffee consumers had significantly lower DAT availability in the caudate than former coffee consumers (p = 0.01) and never coffee consumers (p = 0.022). In HC, there were significant differences in DAT availability in the caudate (p = 0.031, Bonferroni uncorrected) across three HC subgroups. Specifically, post hoc tests showed that current coffee consumers had significantly lower DAT availability in the caudate than former coffee consumers (p = 0.022). Moreover, correlation analysis revealed that cups per day were negatively correlated with DAT availability in the caudate in current consumers of PD patients (r = - 0.219, p = 0.047). In addition, multiple linear regression analyses showed that current coffee consumption remained an independent predictor of decreased DAT availability in the caudate in PD patients and HC.
This study demonstrates that current coffee consumption is associated with decreased striatal DAT availability in the caudate. However, the effects of caffeine on striatal DAT may fade and disappear after quitting coffee consumption.