Parkinson's: benefits of caffeine

A new study has added support to the idea that coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of developing Parkinson's disease and suggests that caffeine may be a particularly beneficial for individuals with a genetic mutation linked to the condition.

The study showed that levels of caffeine were lower in patients with Parkinson's disease compared to control persons, but this difference was much greater in individuals carrying a mutation in the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) gene.

Mutations in the LRRK2 gene are the main factor contributing to the genetic development of Parkinson's disease. Such mutations are relatively rare. Rates vary among different ethnic and racial groups; they are present in fewer than 1% of White individuals.

Although mutations in this gene are strongly linked to Parkinson's disease, only around 30% of carriers develop the condition.

The researchers carried out metabolomic profiling of 368 individuals who had been enrolled in the LRRK2 Cohort Consortium. Of these, 188 had Parkinson's disease, and 180 did not have Parkinson's. Of the 368 people included, 233 carried mutations in the LRRK2 gene ― 118 with Parkinson's disease, and 115 who did not have Parkinson's.

Results showed that among individuals with a normal copy of the LRRK2 gene, for those with Parkinson's disease, plasma concentration of caffeine was 31% lower compared with individuals without Parkinson's.

Among people carrying LRRK2 gene mutations, for those who had Parkinson's, plasma concentration of caffeine was 76% lower than among those who did not have Parkinson's.

Carriers of the gene mutation who had Parkinson's also consumed less caffeine in their diet. The gene carriers with Parkinson's consumed 41% less caffeine per day than the people who did not have Parkinson's, both with and without the gene mutation

The data are not yet strong enough to recommend increasing coffee consumption to reduce risk for Parkinson's for individuals with LRRK2 mutations.

Caffeine blocks the adenosine A2A receptor, which is highly expressed in the part of the brain affected by Parkinson's, and that the LRRK2 gene is implicated in this area too. In animal studies, A2A blockade has been found to have potential neuroprotective effects, including a reduction in inflammation and the toxic excitatory process