Despite its widespread prevalence, the causes of Parkinson’s disease are not fully understood. This makes prevention difficult. A recent study claims to have found a connection between coffee consumption and a lower risk of the disease.

In Germany, around 400,000 people currently suffer from Parkinson’s disease. This makes it one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases. The typical symptoms often severely restrict those affected in their everyday lives. But it is still unclear what exactly leads to the disease. There is no effective prevention or treatment.

A team of international scientists has found in a recent study that coffee consumption can have a positive influence on the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The study thus confirms various research results from the last twenty years that also found a connection between coffee drinking and a lower risk of the disease.

However, the previous findings were based mainly on questionnaires in which subjects documented their coffee drinking habits, and not on precise measurements of caffeine in the body, for example through blood samples, the scientists explain. For their study, the team used data from the “European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition” (EPIC). This is an ongoing study that focuses on the connection between nutrition and non-communicable diseases and includes participants from ten European countries.

Almost 184,000 participants were examined for their own information on coffee consumption and the caffeine content in their blood an average of eight years before a possible diagnosis. 351 of the subjects eventually developed Parkinson’s. The results showed that people who drank the most coffee had a 40 percent lower risk of developing the disease compared to participants who did not drink any coffee at all.

The amount of coffee the participants drank varied from country to country. On average, subjects from the Netherlands drank the most coffee (around 500 milliliters a day, or two cups). Study participants from Italy and Spain drank less (around 100 milliliters a day). Nevertheless, the positive effect of coffee on the risk of Parkinson’s was evident across countries.

There is “a strong inverse relationship between caffeine and the risk of Parkinson’s,” the study postulates. In short: caffeine potentially protects against Parkinson’s. The influence of caffeine on the risk of Parkinson’s has also already been investigated in various studies.

In tests on mice, administering caffeine led, among other things, to a reduction in the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Scientists suspect that the reason for this is that caffeine influences the flow of dopamine in the brain.

And dopamine plays an important role in Parkinson’s. The neurotransmitter ensures that the electrical impulses that control our movement are sent from the brain to the body. In Parkinson’s disease, the nerve cells responsible for the production of dopamine are damaged. The connection is disrupted and typical symptoms such as uncontrollable tremors occur.

However, the first signs of this disturbed connection between the brain and the body are often inconspicuous. The disease goes unnoticed for a long time. The Health Ministry’s Gesund.bund initiative states that the disease is initially primarily recognizable by impaired fine motor skills. Those affected suddenly lose their sense of rhythm or have altered handwriting.

As the disease progresses, more and more nerve cells are damaged. The following symptoms may occur:

In the early stages, the symptoms can be alleviated with medication and sometimes even disappear completely. However, the effectiveness of medication decreases over time. There is no cure.

This is another reason why studies like this are important, as they provide insights into understanding the cause and prevention of Parkinson’s, emphasize the scientists from the Netherlands. “Therefore, the administration of caffeine could be a promising approach to stopping or delaying the worsening of the disease.”

But the study has certain shortcomings: In addition to a very low number of non-coffee drinkers, the results were generated from blood samples taken eight years before a diagnosis. Between the time of the blood sample and the onset of the disease, coffee consumption could have changed significantly, the scientists admit. The authors of the study have also been criticized for only focusing on the ingredient caffeine. However, the Parkinson-protective effect could also come from other ingredients in coffee.