Does Coffee's Caffeine Protect Against Parkinson's Disease?
May 23, 2000 -- On the same day actor Michael J. Fox officially announced
the launch of a foundation for Parkinson's disease research that bears his
name, a new study was released showing that men who don't drink coffee are two
to three times as likely to get the disease as are men who do drink coffee.
And the more caffeine from coffee the men in the study consumed, the lower
their incidence of Parkinson's disease. For example, men who don't drink coffee
at all were five times as likely to get the disease as were those who drink
seven cups, or 28 oz., or more each day.
But don't raid your grocery store just yet. "It's too early to say we
should go out and drink lots of coffee to avoid getting Parkinson's
disease," researcher G. Webster Ross, MD, tells WebMD. "We can't yet
establish a cause-and-effect relationship."
"To do that, you'd have to do a controlled study looking at the effect
of coffee over a five- to 10-year period," Jay Gorell, MD, tells WebMD.
Gorell, who reviewed the study for WebMD, is division head of movement
disorders at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
Parkinson's disease now affects three of every 100 people over age 65, but
as people continue to live longer, this percentage could double in the next 30
to 40 years. The disease also can afflict younger people, like the 38-year-old
Fox, who has had Parkinson's since 1991.
In a news conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Fox announced the formation of
the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and its merger with the
Parkinson's Action Network, which together will lobby for research funding and
try to increase awareness about the disease.
"I have gone from patient to advocate in a day," Fox said. "I
will do everything I can to live up to the honor of representing the
Parkinson's community to the best of my ability." Fox, who is leaving the
ABC series "Spin City" to funnel his time into keeping "the
momentum going" and finding a cure "in less than 10 years," only
two years ago announced that he suffered from the disease.
"My approach to Parkinson's in the first few years was to keep it as
close [to the vest] as possible," he said, but, going it alone became
exhausting. "One craves the company of other people with the same struggles
and challenges," he said.
"It's helped me tremendously, the feeling of being able to serve ... to
be able to offer up my story, as much as it is uncomfortable sometimes," he
In Parkinson's disease, brain cells responsible for controlling movement die
off, causing stiffness, uncontrolled shaking, and other symptoms. Even with
treatment, most patients get worse with time, and may eventually need
wheelchairs or become bedridden.