Proven Studies Show Coffee Reduces the Risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are the two most debilitating neurodegenerative diseases in the world. They are responsible for dementia and loss of mobility, which is irreversible. Current treatment modalities merely manage the symptoms of these diseases and slow down their progression. There are no cures for either of them. Both occur together frequently—indicating that they are related in a manner—though they also occur alone. It may be, for instance, that one brain chemical affects another and predisposes a person to the development of the other disease.
Both diseases have a strong genetic link, but ultimately lifestyle and diet play a significant role in the development of the disease. This indicates that there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing either of these. One such step is to consume more coffee. That’s right, everyone’s favorite pick-me-up in the mornings just got one more benefit added to its already impressive list of healthy attributes.
Here’s what the research says about coffee’s effect on Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s:
Coffee and Parkinson’s Disease Share an Inverse Relationship
Studies have shown that increased coffee consumption is connected to lower incidences of Parkinson’s disease. A follow-up study (published in JAMA by Ross et al., 2000) was done by the longitudinal Honolulu Heart Program conducted between 1965 and 1968. The initial study was conducted on 8,004 Japanese American men and followed their coffee consumption patterns over a 30-year period. During the follow-up study, 102 men were found to have developed Parkinson’s disease, with the incidence of the disease decreasing significantly from 10.4 / 10,000 person- years, to 1.9 per 10,000 persons-years.
It is important to note that similar effects were observed in the consumption of caffeine from non-coffee sources, indicating that the effects were likely due to the presence of caffeine in coffee. No other components of coffee were found to be beneficial to Parkinson’s disease, proving that caffeine was the beneficial ingredient.
The Possible Mechanism at Work in Caffeine
A large aspect of Parkinson development is the death of dopaminergic neurons in certain areas of the brain. Caffeine is an adenosine receptor antagonist. Adenosine and dopamine receptors are located close together. Caffeine is, therefore, able to stimulate dopamine receptors and antagonize the adenosine receptors–both of which are favorable to improving motor activity and overcoming the deficits caused by the damage done to dopaminergic neurons. In rodents, the use of caffeine along with the classic treatment agent of Parkinson’s, L-Dopa, was found to counteract the effect of the disease, making it probable that the same effect may occur in humans.
Coffee and Alzheimer’s Disease Also Share an Inverse Relationship
Alzheimer’s disease is the number one most prevalent neurodegenerative disease, affecting as many as 1 in 20 adults over the age of 65. It is the cause of 50-70% of dementia cases. Similarly to Parkinson’s disease, individuals who consume coffee during the stages before morbidity experience a reduced likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A cohort study published in the Journal Of Alzheimer’s Disease (Cao et al. 2012) followed 124 individuals over a two to four year period.2 All the people followed experienced mild cognitive impairment. Upon completion of the study, it was found that subjects who had low blood caffeine levels typically progressed to dementia. But over 50% of the group that consumed caffeine consistently prior to the investigation (characterized by blood caffeine level of over 1200ng/ml) had no progression to dementia. Though it cannot be assumed that coffee or caffeine intake will prevent the development of Alzheimer’s, it can definitely slow the onset of the disease or the severity of the symptoms. In middle-aged individuals, it was found that consuming three to five cups per day was the sweet spot, as it reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s by an average 65%.
Though genetic factors play a huge role in determining if you ultimately will develop a neurodegenerative condition, coffee and caffeine consumption has demonstrated the potential to reduce the risk of developing these conditions or to slow down their symptoms.