While caffeine may cause other people some shaking and trembling, a daily dose of it may help those suffering from Parkinson’s disease address their mobility issues. Previous research found caffeine consumption to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s. In a new study however, it was shown that caffeine also helps those who already have the disease.
A group of researchers from the McGill University in Montreal in Canada, headed by Ronald Postuma, a neuroscientist at the McGill University Health Centre, looked into the effects of caffeine to patients with Parkinson’s disease. During a 6-week trial, one group of patients were given a daily dose of caffeine (200 mg of pill) which is equivalent to three cups of coffee. The other group served as a placebo.
Then, all of them were subjected to a series of mobility tests. The results show that only those who had caffeine supplement showed significant improvement particularly in terms of general mobility and tremor. The study was published in the online journal of Neurology.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is the most common movement disorder that affects a significant population in UK. The progression of this disease varies between individuals. Many people with this condition live a long productive life while others become disable quickly.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder which usually leads to problems with limbs, mobility and balance. Why? In people with Parkinson’s disease, the dopamine-producing cells in their brain are destroyed. Dopamine is a special type of neurotransmitter that carries signals to and from the brain regarding voluntary movements. Therefore, shortage of dopamine makes it hard for a person to move.
Caffeine and Parkinson’s disease
It’s too early to say whether caffeine consumption has long lasting effects to people with Parkinson’s, according to the researchers. ‘But at least, caffeine doesn’t need to be avoided’, said Postuma. The participants who took caffeine also showed improvement in the stiffness and the speed of their movements.
The researchers also observed that gastrointestinal side effects of coffee are present in both groups. Prior the study, all of the 61 participants drank coffee once a day. However, they didn’t see any effect on depression, quality of sleep, and general health of the patients.
Although the findings shown in the study doesn’t suggest caffeine as a therapeutic alternative to current medications provided to Parkinson’s patients, they can be taken into consideration when discussing dietary caffeine use, explained Dr. Michael Schwarzschild of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who wrote a journal editorial on the study. Other than being safe and effective, caffeine is also less expensive as compared to dopamine prescription drugs.