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Posted Jun 11 2010 7:20am

New research indicates a twenty five per cent reduction in the risk of developing Parkinsosn’s disease among coffee drinkers.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition – the second most common worldwide - for which the causes are uncertain, & there is currently no cure. Around one hundred & twenty thousand people suffer from the condition in the UK, meaning that one person in every five hundred has Parkinson’s disease.

Several previous studies carried out worldwide have indicated coffee consumption as a protective factor against the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. However, the conflicting results between studies meant that it wasn’t possible to clarify the accuracy & extent of the association.

The new study, undertaken by researchers in Portugal, & published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, looked at & analysed the findings of twenty six published studies that had previously investigated the link. The researchers concluded that, “This study confirm an inverse association between caffeine intake and the risk of Parkinson’s Disease, which can hardly by explained by bias or uncontrolled confounding.”

They found that in people who drank two to three cups of coffee a day, there was a twenty five per cent less risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Interestingly, when the research team looked only at female coffee drinkers, the figure dropped to fourteen per cent. According to the research team, this may be due to the fact that they ‘found an interaction between post menopausal hormones & caffeine intake in the risk of Parkinson’s disease.’ They say that though the reasons are unclear, HRT seems to modify the effects of caffeine on the risk.

Kieran Breen,  Director of Research and Development at Parkinson’s UK said of  the study: “These results represent the strongest evidence so far that caffeine may have some protective effects against developing Parkinson’s. But what this study doesn’t tell us is if drinking coffee can slow the progression of the condition once it has begun.

“We need to tease apart exactly what is happening inside the brain before we know whether coffee or caffeine will be useful in developing new treatments for Parkinson’s.

“Although these results are interesting it’s too soon for us to recommend people with Parkinson’s up their caffeine intake, especially as drinking too much coffee may cause other health problems.

While further research is required to clarify the nature of the link between coffee consumption & incidence of the disease, the researchers state that ‘there is a plausible rational biological mechanism’ for the association.


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