New study says drinking coffee can reduce risk of this devastating disease

In our recent round-up of the long-term benefits of routine caffeine consumption, we touched on the drug’s impact on disease prevention.

Antioxidants found in most caffeinated beverages help ward off free radicals that contribute to several serious chonric conditions, including Parkinson’s disease (PD).

According to a new study published in the journal, Neuroimageregularly consuming coffee can significantly reduce one’s risk of developing the devastating nervous system disorder–even if an individual is genetically predisposed to develop it.

The reasoning appears to be multifaceted. On one hand, higher coffee intake exposed participants to compounds known to reduce neurodegeneration. On the other hand, those with genetic predispositions linked to PD appeared to share some aversion toward frequent coffee consumption.

LRRK2 is a genetic mutation independently studied to increase one’s risk for developing Parkinson’s later in life.

More than half of the participants involved in the report had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s prior to being recruited, though only some of these expressed the LRRK2 mutation. A comparable share of participants without Parkinson’s bore the gene mutation. All were tasked with completing dietary questionnaires prior to analysis.

Seventy-six percent of those in the Parkinson’s group evidenced low levels of caffeine in their blood compared to participants who did not have Parkinson’s.

Meanwhile, those with Parkinson’s but not the genetic mutation displayed a 31% lower concentration of caffeine compared to the non-Parkinson’s group without the gene mutation.

A followup review revealed that those belonging to either group who had high concentrations of caffeine in their blood dramatically decreased their risk for developing Parkinson’s disease.

“These results are promising and encourage future research exploring caffeine and caffeine-related therapies to lessen the chance that people with this gene develop Parkinson’s,” study author Dr. Grace Crotty, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, explained in a release. “It’s also possible that caffeine levels in the blood could be used as a biomarker to help identify which people with this gene will develop the disease, assuming caffeine levels remain relatively stable.”

For whatever reason, participants with Parkinson’s and the gene mutation tended to drink less caffeine compared to the study pool as a whole. More directly, the gene-mutated PD patient sample consumed roughly 41% less caffeine a day than all of the patients without PD featured in the report.

“We don’t know yet whether people who are predisposed to Parkinson’s may tend to avoid drinking coffee or if some mutation carriers drink a lot of coffee and benefit from its neuroprotective effects,” Crotty concldued.

This isn’t the first study to established a correlative relationship between high caffeine intake and PD incidence.

In an independently conducted study alsopublished in the Neuropsychopharmacology journal, compounds found in caffeinated beverages effectively slowed the progression of neurodegeneration associated with Parkinson’s in mice models.

These same models enjoyed improved neuron integrity and function, reduced brain inflammation, and motor symptoms as a result of increased caffeine consumption.

“The strength of this new study relates to the robust approach, including the large and carefully followed cohort of people living with PD and the comprehensive set of outcome measures,” the author’s wrote. “It is an important basis to further develop future disease-modifying approaches to slow down the decline of this otherwise relentlessly progressive condition.”