People who consume more caffeine seem to have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.
“That has been clearly established in multiple studies,” says David Simon, a neurologist at the Harvard Medical School.
For example, the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study tracked more than 47,000 men for nine years and the Nurses’ Health Study tracked nearly 89,000 women for 16 years. Those who drank one to three cups of regular coffee a day had a 40 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s than those who consumed none.
But that’s not proof that caffeine can help prevent Parkinson’s.
“Caffeine intake could be a marker for something else that’s affecting whether someone develops the disease,” notes Simon.
What about people who already have Parkinson’s?
Simon and his colleagues analyzed results from a large drug trial that asked people how much caffeine they consumed. “We were disappointed to see that a higher caffeine intake wasn’t associated with a slower progression of Parkinson’s,” he says.
But that kind of study can’t prove whether caffeine could have an impact on the disease.
Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have been conducting trials that can.
A few years ago, when Ron Postuma and his team gave 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine or a placebo twice a day to 61 Parkinson’s patients, some symptoms—like rigidity or impaired movement—improved in the caffeine takers after six weeks.
“But we don’t know if this is a long-lasting benefit or whether it works for a little while and then your body gets used to it,” says Postuma.
He has launched a second study, to see if 200 mg twice a day for up to five years improves symptoms or slows the progression of the disease. First results are due later this year.
And Coenzyme Q10?
Fifteen years ago, a preliminary study suggested that CoQ10 (300 to 1,200 mg a day) could slow the progression of Parkinson’s.
But a much larger trial, which was launched in 2009 with funding from the National Institutes of Health, was stopped early when monitors saw no improvement in 600 Parkinson’s patients who were being given 1,200 or 2,400 mg a day of CoQ10.
“We are quite disappointed, but we can’t argue with the data,” the lead investigator told Alzforum, a website for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s researchers.
Nevertheless, it’s easy to find stories on the Internet touting this supplement for preventing PD. CoQ10 “may be an ideal candidate for early intervention in Parkinson’s disease,” according to the Natural Medicine Journal, is just one example.
Sources: Lancet Neurol. 15: 1257, 2016; Ann. Neurol. 50: 56, 2001; Clin. Neuropharmacol. 38: 163, 2015; Neurology 79: 651, 2012; Arch. Neurol. 59: 1541, 2002; JAMA Neurol. 71: 543, 2014.
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