Coffee May Help Control Symptoms Of Parkinson's Disease
August 3, 2012

Coffee May Help Control Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Coffee lovers take note: coffee may have health benefits related to Parkinson's disease. A new study examined the influence coffee has on the disorder. Based on the results, researchers believe that coffee can help control movement, easing the symptoms of Parkinson´s. The findings are featured in the online issue of Neurology, a journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"Studies have shown that people who use caffeine are less likely to develop Parkinson's disease, but this is one of the first studies in humans to show that caffeine can help with movement symptoms for people who already have the disease," explained study author Dr. Ronald Postuma, a member of the American Academy of Neurology and a researcher at the Researchers Institute of the McGill University Health Center, in a prepared statement.

In the study, 61 participants who showed symptoms of Parkinson´s disease, such as daytime sleepiness, were split into two groups. One group took a placebo and the other group took a pill with 100 milligrams of caffeine twice a day for three weeks then 200 milligrams twice a day for three weeks. The second group consumed the equivalent of caffeine from two to four cups per day.

Following a six-week exam period, the group that was given caffeine supplements showed a five-point average in improvement in Parkinson´s severity rating as compared to participants who were given the placebo.

"This is a modest improvement, but may be enough to provide benefit to patients. On the other hand, it may not be sufficient to explain the relationship between caffeine non-use and Parkinson's, since studies of the progression of Parkinson's symptoms early in the disease suggest that a five-point reduction would delay diagnosis by only six months," noted Postuma in the statement.

The group that took caffeine also showed an average of three-point improvement in body stiffness and body movement as compared to those who were in the placebo group.

"The people who received caffeine supplements experienced an improvement in their motor symptoms (a five-point improvement on the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale, a rating scale used to measure the severity of the disease) over those who received the placebo," suggested Postuma in the statement. "This was due to improvement in speed of movement and a reduction in stiffness."

However, caffeine did not positively improve daytime sleepiness, depression, or quality of life in the participants; it´s also important to take note that, as the study was done in a short amount of time, the influence of caffeine may decrease over time.

"The study is especially interesting since caffeine seems to block a malfunctioning brain signal in Parkinson's disease and is so safe and inexpensive," commented Dr. Michael Schwarzschild of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who submitted an editorial with the study in the journal. "Although the results do not suggest that caffeine should be used as a treatment in Parkinson's disease, they can be taken into consideration when people with Parkinson's are discussing their caffeine use with their neurologist."

The authors believe that the findings show that caffeine can possibly become developed to be a treatment for those with Parkinson´s.

"Caffeine should be explored as a treatment option for Parkinson's disease. It may be useful as a supplement to medication and could therefore help reduce patient dosages," concluded Postuma in the statement.