Tremor Disorder or Parkinson's?
Will a Coffee a Day Keep Parkinson's Away? It Depends
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Roughly half of Americans drink coffee every day, and most health experts agree that moderate consumption of caffeinated coffee — two to four cups a day — doesn’t pose any dangers for the average healthy adult. In fact, many studies suggest that coffee may actually be good for you in moderate amounts, reducing the risk for chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease as well as certain cancers.
Coffee’s Potential Benefits for the Brain
Several studies point out coffee’s protective actions against brain-related health conditions as well, especially Parkinson’s disease. Past research suggests that caffeinated coffee may help decrease the risk of Parkinson’s in certain people who have a family history of the disease.
But how? And why does it seem to benefit some, but not others? The answer may be in our genes. Most recently, a team of U.S. researchers sought to identify the genes that could be responsible for caffeine’s effects on Parkinson’s incidence. It found that participants who carried types of a specific gene — called GRIN2A — received more neuroprotective benefits from coffee against Parkinson’s.
The results showed that heavy coffee drinkers with one type of the GRIN2A gene had an 18 percent lower risk for Parkinson’s, but those with two types of the gene had a 59 percent lower risk. This implies that just drinking a lot of coffee does not necessarily reduce Parkinson’s risk; it depends on your genes.
In addition to Parkinson’s disease, coffee may decrease the chance of another age-related condition: dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A 2009 study showed that people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day were 65 percent less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s, compared with non-drinkers or occasional coffee drinkers.
And earlier this year, a report in the journalStrokefound that women who drink a cup of coffee or more per day may be at a 25 percent lower risk for stroke, even after accounting for heart disease risk factors such as weight, blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.
Is It the Caffeine in Coffee?
More research is needed to determine whether it’s caffeine specifically, or caffeine along with other components found in coffee, that may be beneficial. A 2000 study published in theJournal of the American Medical Associationexplored the connection between coffee and dietary caffeine intake with risk of Parkinson’s. The data suggests it is related to caffeine, not to other nutrients contained in coffee.
While these study results are promising, this is definitely not a recommendation for those who don’t drink coffee or caffeine to start, or those who are coffee drinkers to down more. Heavy caffeine consumption can have a variety of negative side effects, including insomnia, jitters, an upset stomach, difficulty concentrating and heart palpitations. It’s important to talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet — including caffeine intake — due to health reasons.
Mind your health,
Dr. Keith Black
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