Uno Italian study confirms that two or three cups of coffee a day – if taken before the onset of the disease – can have a protective effect against Parkinson’s disease. We questioned the expert
The Parkinson’s it is the most common progressive neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s. It is estimated that in Italy over half a million people suffer from iteven if officially the data speak of “only” 250 thousand. Thanks to the aging of the population, according to the World Health Organization, by 2030 there could be a doubling of cases in the world.
Yet good news also seems to come from the research, such as a possible positive effect of coffee on disease progression. The Italian Society of Neurology, whose experts believe that a moderate consumption of coffee “protects” from the diseaseas confirmed by the President of SIN itself, Alfredo Berardelli, neurologist and professor at Sapienza in Rome, one of the universities that participated in a recent study.
Does coffee protect against Parkinson’s? What the study says
The study, published in the scientific journal Parkinson’s & Related Disorders, saw the collaboration between several Italian universities (in addition to Sapienza also the universities of Bari, Catania and Verona) and foreign ones (Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York), which worked together with the neurology department of the ASST Pavia-Voghera and to the IRCCS Neuromed of Pozzilli. The work was coordinated by Giovanni Defazio of the University of Cagliari, one of the pioneers in this field and already the author of other research on the subject. What emerged is that a previous moderate consumption of coffee can delay the age of onset of the disease. «This study, in which we also participated as the Department of Neurology of Sapienza, together with others confirms that the consumption of coffee decreases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The sample examined, about 7/800 people, is significant and shows that among those who have taken coffee before the onset of the disease, those who then really get sick are fewer than in the control group, i.e. those who had not drunk coffee in the past»Clarifies Berardelli.
How coffee contrasts the disease of Parkinson’s
But what is the reason why there are differences between those who have taken coffee and who have not, with respect to the development of Parkinson’s disease? «The protective effect of the drink appears to be linked to its caffeine content. In fact, among those who drink decaffeinated, the same beneficial effects are not found. The reason, in medical terms, is related toaction of caffeine on some receptors, called adenosine, which are located in some structures of our brain and are crucial for the development of Parkinson’s disease»Explains the president of SIN.
These receptors are important for the proper functioning of adenosine, which in turn is responsible for the normal function of nerve cells and is a signal of inflammation. According to what has emerged so far, coffee works by blocking these receptors, which are numerous in the basal ganglia affected by Parkinson’s disease. “The exact mechanism is not yet clear in terms of scientific evidence, but it represents an important research field, also in order to develop anti-Parkinson drugs antagonists of adenosine receptors, to treat the disease” adds the expert.
The right amount of coffee to protect against Parkinson’s
Therefore, there is no shortage of hopes also because research shows possible positive effects of caffeine also in reducing the symptoms of the disease, once diagnosed: “Another study conducted by our Department investigated the levels of caffeine present in saliva, which contains many substances found in our body. These levels have been found to be lower in patients with Parkinson’s than in the control population, and the difference is particularly marked in those with a more severe form of the disease. The conclusion is that with the amount of caffeine it is inversely proportional to the progression of the disease »adds Berardelli. But what is the correct amount of coffee to drink, without running into any negative consequences? «On the basis of the studies conducted, we can say that a cup or two a day, at most three, in general could be the number useful to prevent Parkinson’s disease, but it must be said that there is no fixed amount. Be careful, in fact, not to “get intoxicated” with coffee, which can have other harmful side effects, such as increasing blood pressure »explains the neurologist.
Another protective factor against the Parkinson’s: physical activity
The positive action of coffee, however, is not the only one able to counteract the evolution of the disease: even moderate daily physical activity, followed before Parkinson’s occurs, can improve symptoms, as other studies show. One of these had already been presented by Defazio in 2017, identifying physical activity and caffeine among the protective factors, while another research conducted in Italy dates back to a couple of years ago, when it was published on Neurobiology of Disease. The positive effects included a reduction in pain, incontinence, orthostatic hypotension, constipation, sleep disturbances, fatigue, anxiety and depression.. “In fact it is like this: the two main protective factors are represented precisely by caffeine and physical activity. Research also shows a protective role of tea, vitamin E and so-called Fans, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but new analyzes are underway on this. On the contrary, a negative role of the pesticides they would represent has emerged, therefore a risk factor »explains the expert.
Protective factors and risk factors
Finally, another aspect on which the research on Parkinson’s is focused is the possibility that there are different forms of the disease, with different triggering causes and therefore also specific methods of approach depending on the type of evolution. At the moment it is known that among the risk factors there is certainly familiarity: «In fact, it has been seen that there are groups of protective and risk factors, which can function differently also depending on the subjects. One of the main causes, however, remains the familiarity with the disease, together with theold age: Parkinson’s it has a frequency that increases a lot from the age of 70 and especially after the 80s»Concludes the president of SIN.
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