Coffee: Black, two Sugars and hold the Parkinson’s.
As the second most common neurodegenerative disease, it’s estimated that around 10 million people are living with Parkinson’s disease worldwide. Parkinson’s is generally associated with old age, but a minority of cases (around 1 in 25) are actually diagnosed in patients below the age of 50. As more and more people are living well beyond their 50s, Parkinson’s is something we all need to think about.
Neuronal degeneration is central to Parkinson’s
Degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in areas of the brain, including the substantia nigra and locus caeruleus, lies at the heart of Parkinson’s development and progression. This progressive degeneration leads to decline in muscle control – leading to the canonical signs of Parkinson’s: tremor, loss of balance, muscle rigidity and difficulty initiating movement.
What causes Parkinson’s?
There are a number of genetic and environmental factors known to affect the development and progression of the disease, but the exact underlying cause of the neuronal degeneration is still largely unknown. Studies of Parkinson’s in families have revealed that genetic factors are likely to contribute to the development of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in particular. The list of environmental factors associated with Parkinson’s is extensive, including increased risk with exposure to pesticides, infections, heavy metals. Interestingly, drinking tea and coffee has been linked with a decreased risk of developing the disease.
Caffeine and Parkinson’s disease: A meta-analysis
26 studies looking at relationships between caffeine intake and Parkinson’s disease – published between 1968 and 2008 from across Europe, Asia, UK and the USA – were collected and reviewed in a meta-analysis. Together, these showed strong evidence for a 25% decreased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease with increased caffeine intake. This relationship was shown to be linear, with those drinking higher amounts of caffeine having a more greatly reduced chance of developing Parkinson’s – good news for coffee addicts!
How does coffee protect from Parkinson’s?
It’s thought that caffeine helps prevent the development of Parkinson’s disease by binding to receptors on neurons in areas of the brain that are affected in Parkinson’s and activating signalling pathways that promote cell survival rather than cell death. As neuronal cell degeneration and death is central to the disease, the neuroprotective effects of caffeine present a logical explanation for why it appears to have preventative action against Parkinson’s, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s!
If you’re interested in learning more about Parkinson’s disease, head over to the Parkinson’s UK homepage. It’s full of information about the research going on around the disease, as well as ways of getting involved to help fight it!
Costa J, Lunet N, Santos C, Santos J, & Vaz-Carneiro A (2010). Caffeine exposure and the risk of Parkinson’s disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease : JAD, 20 Suppl 1 PMID: 20182023
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