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Drinking coffee may protect some people against Parkinson’s

A recent study found lower levels of caffeine in the blood of people with Parkinson’s disease. The study compared people with Parkinson’s who carry a particular genetic mutation known to increase Parkinson’s risk with people who carry the same mutation but do not have the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain disorder characterized by tremors, rigidity in the limbs and torso, and movement and balance problems. People with the condition also have an increased risk of depression and dementia.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, more than 1 million people in North America and more than 4 million people worldwide have Parkinson’s disease. In the United States, about 60,000 people receive a diagnosis each year.

Around 15% of people with the disease have a family history of Parkinson’s, which suggests they inherited genes that increased their risk of developing the condition. However, most cases result from a complex, poorly understood interaction of genetic and environmental factors.

Several environmental factors, such as head trauma, chemicals, and drugs, have associations with increased risk, whereas exercise has associations with reduced risk.

A 2010 review of previous research found that the more caffeine people regularly consumed, the lower their risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Another study showed that people with Parkinson’s who have no genetic risk factors for the disease have lower caffeine levels in their blood than people without the disease.

A team led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA, set out to discover whether coffee might also protect people with a mutation in the LRRK2 gene. Having this gene increases the risk of developing the disease but does not guarantee it.

The researchers compared people with and without Parkinson’s disease. Both groups contained people with and without a mutation in the LRRK2 gene.

The researchers found that the differences in the blood caffeine levels between people with Parkinson’s and those without were greater among individuals with this genetic mutation.

Dr. Grace Crotty, who led the research, says:

“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 … 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.”

The authors published the study in the journal Neurology.

The scientists analyzed blood plasma samples from 368 individuals enrolled in the LRRK2 Cohort Consortium, a research project established in 2009 coordinated and funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

One group contained 188 individuals with Parkinson’s, and the control group included 180 people without the disease. Around the same proportion of each group had a mutation in the LRRK2 gene.

When the researchers compared the chemical profile of plasma from the two groups, they found the levels of five particular chemicals differed the most — all of them caffeine-related.

Concentrations of all five chemicals were significantly lower among

Coffee may reduce risk for Parkinson’s disease, study says

Caffeine may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease in people who have a gene mutation associated with the movement disorder, researchers report.

“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,” said study author Dr. Grace Crotty, of Massachusetts General Hospital.

“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,” Crotty added in a news release from the journal Neurology.

The study was published online in the journal.

Previous studies have shown that caffeine may protect against Parkinson’s in people with no genetic risk factors. This new study focused on a mutation in the LRRK2 gene that increases the risk of Parkinson’s.

Not all people with this gene mutation develop Parkinson’s disease, so scientists are trying to pinpoint other contributing genetic or environmental factors.

Could coffee — or its lack — be one of them?

This study compared 188 people with Parkinson’s disease to 180 people without the disease. Both groups had people with and without the LRRK2 gene mutation.

Among people with the gene mutation, those with Parkinson’s had a 76% lower concentration of caffeine in their blood than those without Parkinson’s. Among people without the mutation, those who had Parkinson’s had a 31% lower concentration of caffeine in their blood than those without Parkinson’s.

People with Parkinson’s who had the gene mutation consumed 41% less caffeine a day than the people with and without the gene mutation who didn’t have Parkinson’s.

The study assessed people at one point in time, so it doesn’t help researchers understand any long-term effect caffeine may have on Parkinson’s risk or how it may affect the disease’s progression, Crotty noted.

Also, the study doesn’t prove that caffeine consumption directly reduces the risk of Parkinson’s it only shows an association.

More information

The Parkinson’s Foundation has more on Parkinson’s disease.

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