Parkinson's can be a devastating disease. While there are some treatment options available, you generally need to know that you have Parkinson's before you begin them. And this neurodegenerative condition can be notoriously difficult to diagnose. Now, a new test is being developed that could help identify Parkinson's much earlier than standard assessment measures do now. This would allow patients to begin treatment sooner, hopefully slowing the condition's progression.
Researchers at Juntendo University School of Medicine in Tokyo, Japan, have been investigating the link between caffeine and Parkinson's disease. We know that caffeine consumption is actually associated with a decreased Parkinson's risk, but little is currently known about how people with the disease metabolize caffeine. The researchers focused on this topic and uncovered something interesting.
The researchers recruited 108 people with Parkinson's for their study. The patients had suffered with Parkinson's for an average of six years. The researchers tested the caffeine levels in their blood and compared the results to the levels of 31 similarly aged participants who did not have Parkinson's. All of the participants consumed approximately the same amount of caffeine, about two cups a day. But caffeine levels were much lower in the blood of people with Parkinson's - about 24 picomoles per 10 microliters, compared to 79 picomoles per 10 microliters in the healthy participants. The researchers conducted a statistical analysis of the test and determined that it was highly reliable in identifying people with Parkinson's.
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Interestingly, the researchers also conducted a genetic analysis to see if the participants had any mutations in the genes related to caffeine metabolism and did not find any differences between the two groups. They noted that it's possible the Parkinson's medication the participants were taking could have affected their caffeine metabolism, so more studies will be necessary. However, these initial results are promising and could provide a way for doctors to provide an earlier Parkinson's diagnosis in the future.
Keep in mind that actual caffeine consumption didn't affect the outcome of the tests and that caffeine is actually linked to a lower Parkinson's risk. So don't let this study scare you off from drinking caffeine. Caffeine is found in a number of antioxidant-rich beverages, like coffee and green and black tea. And it's fine (and often even beneficial) to enjoy in moderation. Just don't force yourself to drink it if you find that it bothers you.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD