Caffeine may provide some Parkinson’s relief
- Aug 04, 2012
A new, small study found people with Parkinson’s disease who took caffeine pills saw slight but noticeable improvements in movement problems related to the condition.
The findings warrant further study, Canadian researchers said. And there are still questions - such as if patients would develop a caffeine tolerance, eventually blunting the benefits of coffee or caffeine pills.
“It’s a bit too early to say, Everybody should be drinking coffee,’” said lead researcher Dr. Ronald Postuma, from McGill University in Montreal.
“Does it really make a difference over years of Parkinson’s disease? I don’t think we know.”
Still, he said, caffeine is generally safe, so it could be worth trying for some patients with Parkinson’s who aren’t doing great and also have trouble with sleepiness.
About 50,000 to 60,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation. Typical symptoms include shaking and trouble with movement and coordination.
There’s no cure for the disease, but some medications can make symptoms less severe.
AS MUCH AS FOUR CUPS OF COFFEE
For the new study, Postuma and his colleagues randomly assigned 61 people with Parkinson’s and in their mid-60s, on average, to six weeks of caffeine pills or identical drug-free placebo pills.
Participants in the caffeine group took 100 milligrams when they woke up and again after lunch for the first three weeks, then were bumped up to 200 milligrams twice a day for the rest of the study.
In comparison, a cup of brewed coffee typically has about 100 milligrams of caffeine and a 12-ounce soda has between 30 and 50 milligrams.
After the study period, people taking caffeine didn’t report a clear improvement in sleepiness. But that group did improve on an overall scale of Parkinson’s symptoms, including on measures of muscle rigidity and other movement problems.
The average benefit was a decrease of about five points on the disease rating scale, according to findings published Wednesday in Neurology. Postuma said a typical patient who’s had Parkinson’s for a few years would have a score of 30 to 40.
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