Can caffeine protect you from Parkinson’s?
03/07/2018 // Michelle Simmons // Views

Caffeine levels in the blood could serve as an indicator of Parkinson’s disease, in particular in its early stages, as a study found that caffeine levels were significantly lower in individuals with neurodegenerative disorder. The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Juntendo University in Japan who aimed to develop clinical methods for early detection of Parkinson’s disease based on blood tests.

“We are focusing on elucidating fundamental treatments by looking at the function of genes. Recent research findings include the effectiveness of silcarntitne biomarkers and the effectiveness of caffeine biomarkers for diagnosing Parkinson's disease,” said Nobutaka Hattori, lead author of the study and chairman of the department of neurology at Juntendo University.

In a number of experiments, the team tested caffeine levels and 11 associated metabolites in more than 139 participants – 108 were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and 31 were healthy individuals. The participants of the study were asked to drink an average of two cups of coffee each day.

The findings of the study, which were published in the journal Neurology, revealed that people with Parkinson’s disease had significantly lower levels of caffeine in their blood in comparison to the healthy participants, with approximately one third of the levels found in healthy participants. In addition, nine out of the 11 by-products also decreased in concentration in participants with Parkinson's disease. Meanwhile, genetic studies on degrading enzymes found no difference in caffeine-related genes between the two groups.


“Based on these results, we concluded that decomposition of caffeine is not regressing in Parkinson's disease patients, due to them not being able to take up caffeine as well,” said Shinji Saiki, co-author of the study and an associate professor at Juntendo University.

Saiki added that a minimum of seven studies, which were used as a background of their study, have shown that people who consume more than a certain amount of caffeine have a low risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

Caffeine may slow down the progression of Parkinson's disease

A study published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience found that two caffeine-based compounds could slow down the progression of Parkinson's disease.

Previous studies have revealed that a protein called alpha-synuclein (a-synuclein) plays a role in the onset of Parkinson's disease. Studies have also shown that in the brains of Parkinson's patients, a-synuclein misfolds to form protein clumps called Lewy bodies. These protein clumps build up in and destroy dopamine-producing cells of the brain area responsible in movement called substantia nigra. The reduction in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate movement, results in the damaged motor control characteristic of Parkinson's disease.

The researchers of the study focused on determining ways to protect dopamine-producing cells by preventing the misfolding of a-synuclein. As caffeine was found to have a protective effect against Parkinson's disease, the researchers used a “caffeine scaffold” to develop eight new compounds called “bifunctional dimers,” which are molecules that connect two different substances that influence dopamine-producing cells. They also tested other compounds, such as nicotine, metformin, and aminoindan. Then, they applied the dimers to a yeast model of Parkinson's disease, which is a yeast cell line that expresses a-synuclein-green fluorescent protein (AS-GFP). (Related: A Cup of Black Tea Each Day Reduces Risk of Parkinson's Disease by Astonishing 71 Percent.)

They found two caffeine-based compounds which were referred to as C8-6-I and C8-6-N that attach to a-synuclein and prevent the protein misfolding and clump formation.

“Our results suggest these novel bifunctional dimers show promise in preventing the progression of Parkinson's disease,” said Jeremy Lee, co-author of the study.

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