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That cup of coffee may not relieve Parkinson’s symptoms

MUHC study refutes myth that caffeine can help reduce movement symptoms for people with Parkinson’s disease

Sep 28, 2017

MONTREAL – Science has shown that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than people who never drink it. But that doesn't necessarily mean that drinking coffee may relieve the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s. According to a new research from Canadian scientists led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), caffeine cannot be recommended as a therapy for movement symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Their findings are published today in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The research team had conducted a previous study, published in Neurology in 2012, which suggested that caffeine helps reduce movement symptoms for people with Parkinson’s disease. It was one of the first studies in the field to observe the possible benefits of caffeine on patients’ motor symptoms such as the speed of movement and the reduction in muscle stiffness. But because the study was small and lasted only six weeks, they decided to investigate further but the outcomes were not what they expected.

“At the time, it was exciting to think that caffeine, one of the most widely used psychomotor stimulants in the world, could be a safe and inexpensive therapy option to help people who already have Parkinson’s,” says lead study author, Dr. Ronald B. Postuma, who is a clinician-scientist at the Montreal General Hospital site of the RI-MUHC and a professor of Medicine in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University. “But the results of our most recent study show otherwise. Nevertheless, it remains true and well established that people who do not drink coffee during life seem to be at higher risk for Parkinson's disease. So we still do not fully understand the relationship between caffeine and Parkinson’s.” Learn more