Could Coffee Unlock Parkinson’s Disease?

Coffee or tea is the preferred way for many people to start their morning. That extra boost of caffeine just seems to get things rolling. New research suggests that caffeine may do more than help us get started in the morning. Caffeine may also provide a method of diagnosing Parkinson’s disease. Keep reading, or follow the original story in HealthDay to learn more.

A study published in the journal Neurology discovered a new connection between caffeine and Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s disease carry less caffeine in their blood than those without Parkinson’s when consuming the same amount of caffeine.

The hope is that the way our body’s process caffeine, and the related markers, could help more effectively diagnose Parkinson’s disease.

108 people diagnosed with Parkinson’s participated in the study. The study matched them with 31 people of the same age in a control group that did not have Parkinson’s. The study observed the effects of caffeine on the body, and tracked for 11 byproducts resulting from the body processing caffeine. Genetic testing ensured that each member of the study was free of other mutations that might affect the metabolic process. Each member of the study ingested about two cups of coffee each day.

People with Parkinson’s disease showed markedly less caffeine in their blood when compared to the control group.

Researchers observed nine out of 11 byproducts in the test group. These signals and signs allowed researchers to accurately identify people with Parkinson’s disease.

Results of the genetic testing revealed no differences in caffeine-related genes that would account for these differences. More research is needed, however, as the study did not include anyone diagnosed with advanced Parkinson’s. The research cannot provide any evidence to determine the association between caffeine and disease severity.

Previous research suggested that caffeine may boost resistance to Parkinson’s.

The new research represents a foundation to build upon. It begins to uncover how people with Parkinson’s process caffeine. This could represent new ways of understanding and diagnosing the disease.

Newly understood markers, and measurements for Parkinson’s could also assist in the field of therapy and treatment. No one has identified reliable biomarkers for Parkinson’s yet. The Michael J. Fox Foundation is working to solve this issue. The study, called Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative, gathers data from over 1,500 global volunteers. The Foundation provides this information to any qualified researchers in an effort to further scientific knowledge and advancement.

Mark Frasier, PhD, who is senior vice president of research at the Michael J. Fox Foundation, says their goal is to build an “ecosystem,” and “engine.” They hope to improve and confirm results from other studies all while spurring on other avenues of investigation.

“If clinical symptoms, such as smell loss and sleep changes, could be combined with a blood-based marker, we could more accurately identify PD risk in more people,” says Frasier.

Perhaps caffeine is the key to that understanding.

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