Oct 18, 2012

Parkinson’s and caffeine

Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder and a degenerative disease of the brain caused by a lack of dopamine in certain areas of the brain where dopamine-producing cells are destroyed. Adenosine receptors usually inhibit the production of dopamine. Caffeine blocks the receptors and in so doing boosts available dopamine. The disease is characterized by muscle tremor, slow movement, impaired speech and weakness which are all a result of dopamine deficiency. Dopamine acts as the messenger between nerve cells. For those of you who suffer from Parkinson’s and also smoke, you may be happy to learn that smoking cigarettes for many years is associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s and not the number of cigarettes one smokes a day.  It is not how many you smoke, but for how long you have smoked.

Research and studies
Studies by a Montreal scientist at McGill University have shown that people who use caffeine are less likely to develop the disease and that caffeine can also help with movement symptoms for those people who already have the disease. Caffeine has already shown to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s but its effects have never been tested in people who already had the disease. The scientist and colleagues gave 61 people with Parkinson’s a six-week course of pills containing the caffeine equivalent of about three cups of coffee a day, or a placebo. Only people in the caffeine group showed improvement. (Neurology, DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318263570d).

Recent studies
The exact cause of Parkinson's is still unknown. The disease usually starts at around age 55 with ten per cent of sufferers acquiring it before age 50. A study at the Harvard School of Public Health with about 135,000 people of mixed demographics showed that men who drank four to five cups of coffee daily cut their risk of getting Parkinson's almost in half. Further research is needed to determine if the same holds true for women and further studies are still being conducted. There is indeed hope for Parkinson’s sufferers.

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