“battling parkinson’s disease” (or, head trauma and risk of PD-part2)

In 1984, Muhammad Ali was a 42 years old former boxing champion who recently had to figure out how to live with his tremors, slurred speech and slow movements. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Ali 1980 (only 1yr prior to appearance of PD signs, 4 yrs before diagnosis)

Ali fought late into his life; and especially his last two fights, Holmes (above) and Berbick, left him battered and bruised… to say the least.

There are many people that believe Ali would have developed PD even if he lived a life as a quiet librarian, since the evidence linking boxing-related head trauma to development of PD is still controversial.

However, there’s another group that believe in a definitive cause-and-effect relationship.

In 2006, study shows an association between prior head injury with loss of consciousness and PD (odds ratio= 3.8; 95% confidence interval, 1.3–11; p = 0.014) in twins, especially monozygotic (Goldman et al. Annals Neurology, 2006). Risk was increased with subsequent head injuries and/or hospitalization.

Puerto Rico's Arroyo twin boxers (2008)

Another case-controlled study examined environmental risk of PD. This study found that head injury (OR=6.23) that occurred on average 37yrs prior to diagnosis was the strongest risk-factor for PD… Though you have to keep-in-mind people have a hard time remembering these events or may attach greater significance to them in hindsight, i.e.”recall bias”.

Ali has turned his battle with PD into a positive by:

– establishing the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Centre (at the Barow Neurological Institute)

– hosting the annual charity event (going on 17 years! wow) Celebrity Fight Night (www.celebrityfightnight.org).

Ali @ Celebrity Fight Night 2009


so, to all those who are bravely battling this disease, i admire you! keep your mind active to have a fighting chance… and never surrender!

Or, as Dr. Lieberman puts it: “fight like a tiger, think like a fox”. much love.

the caffeinator

sippin’ espresso in lagos, portugal

I once said “I feel naked without a coffee cup in my hand” … and being a grad student, I always feel I can justify it.

… but what do we really know about caffeine?


2737 BC, CHINA : Chinese Emperor Shen Nung boiled drinking water and leaves from a nearby bush, the first pot of tea

tea bush

9th century, ETHIOPIA : shepherd began consuming wild coffee berries after observing that his goats had increased energy after eating them

coffee berries

1800’s : introduction of soft drinks; Dr. Pepper, followed by Coca-Cola and then Pepsi-Cola

dr. pepper

What’s in a name?

Caffeine is common name for ” 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine

The term “coffee” is derived from kaffee (german) + cafe (french)


Caffeine is consumed as: 1) Coffee – 71%   2) Soft drinks – 16%    3) Tea – 12%

After you ingest caffeine, it is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream and becomes metabolized in the liver. *90% of caffeine (from 12oz coffee) is cleared from the stomach in 20mins!


Once absorbed, caffeine (an adenosine receptor antagonist) inhibits the central nervous system, causing any sleepy-effects of the adenosine neurons to stop, and things start to “speed up”!

Impact on Health

With moderate consumption (<400mg/day)  available research shows that caffeine is associated with (get ready, it’s a big list!):

espresso, please!

  • reduced fatigue / increased endurance / decreased effort (*by enhancing motor unit sensitivity)
  • improved neuromuscular coordination (i.e. driving reaction times, staying in the lines)
  • increased cerebral blood flow
  • increased alertness, concentration, wakefulness, reaction time, working short term memory
  • improved mood and decreased hostility (well, duh!)
  • reduced onset / severity of Parkinson’s disease symptoms
  • protection against DNA damage from UV radiation
  • weight reduction (*green tea)
  • 28-35% lower risk of developing type-II diabetes with 4-6cups coffee/day (compared to <2cups/day)
  • increased blood pressure, headache, drowsiness, anxiety, nausea if consuming >400mg/day
  • disturb sleep patterns, and may impair normal development in children
  • high-sugar beverages, and therefore increased weight gain and cavities
  • conflicting results regarding its effect on: fetal growth, birth weight, and fertility
  • inconsistent findings on link between cardiovascular health (esp. coronary heart disease, stroke) and caffeine consumption
  • controversial association to decreased risk for ovarian and breast cancers

shall i order another?

So, to caffeinate or not to caffeinate is up to you… but don’t worry, it’s not toxic until the 101st daily cup! much love.

p.s. if you’re interested in reading more, check out these review papers; caffeine – not just a stimulant (glade, 2010) and caffeine in foods (heckman, 2010)

coffee, cigarette, pills and risk of Parkinson’s disease (part1)

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. What we do know is that it is a combination of environmental and genetic factors that lead to its development.

Research (link here) shows coffee, cigarettes and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e. ibuprofen) are associated with lower risk of developing PD… BUT, becoming a quad-americano regular with a pack-a-day habit is probably going to do more harm than good.



It has been suggested that the association of cigarettes is due to the fact that:

1. persons with PD exhibit personality differences; for example, persons predestined to get PD are more likely to choose not to smoke, due to their inherent neuropsychological states (personality) that are influencing lifestyle behaviors

2. nicotine may stimulate dopamine release (the chemical that is degenerated in PD), and can therefore suppress signs of PD

(Morens, Grandinetti, Reed, White, & Ross, 1995)


1. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant (adenosine receptor antagonism). Caffeine may act to remove inhibition of dopamine neurotransmission (caffeine and dopamine share similar receptors) and thereby increases dopamine release. So basically, it can be a form of self-medication that decreases clinical expression of Parkinsonism.

2. Also, personality may be an influence. Perhaps behavioural factors (inherent personality) make persons likely to develop Parkinson’s disease choose to not drink coffee.

(Ross, Abbott, Petrovitch, et al. JAMA 2000)




1. inhibit cyclooxygenaze enzymes involved in inflammation. The inflammatory process have been implicated in PD pathology (due to glial activation and pro-inflammatory cytokines).

2. have been shown to reduce loss of dopamine and associated neurons

3. are hydroxyl-radical scavengers (i.e. clean-up free radicals, which may play a critical role in PD occurrence)

(Chen, Zhang, Miguel et al., Arch Neurol 2003)

 Just a note,

…this information needs to be digested with caution. A lot of this research is done by statistical analysis of medical records and health history, and there is a fine line between “associations” (a possible common etiological factor) and direct “cause-and-effect”.

So PLEASE, don’t grab a pack of smokes, pop some aspirin and chug a double-double on your way home… much love.

coming soon… Part 2: diet, dairy, head trauma and risk of Parkinson’s disease

road trip (part2)!

so, my trip to Vancouver to do data collection went a little something like this…


collect data.



EAT (well, coffee… but still delicious!).

"JJ Bean Coffee"



collect data.

surface emg electrode




ground masala burger with dehydrated yam bread & kale chips at "Organic Lives"



collect data.

surface emg electrode




a delicious dragon bowl & dandelion coffee at "the Naam"



The weather was nice, so I squeezed in a walk…


Jericho Beach


… a bit of yoga…




… and lots of driving in between testing.


my rental "yarr-car"




my data collection (all 12 months of it!) has taught me the art of patience (especially for technology!) and to be grateful for what you get (even if it’s only 0.36 secs out of 6.5 hrs of work!)


… though it wasn’t a perfect run of data in Van (some battery problems and memory card errors) – I met some amazing people who made it all worthwhile! I am so appreciative of all my participants time; they generously let me into their home and allowed me to track their every move (muscle, step, heart, activity, GPS). much love.



oh, p.s. the cherry blossoms were out!

World Parkinson’s Day

it’s World Parkinson’s Day!

(check out its history by clicking HERE)


My Grampy Roland



"Captain Cure" at the Parkinson Superwalk (London ON, September 2006)



Here’s a great public service advertisement from Fox & Ali…


… and check out this news segment on a Kamloops couple that lives with Parkinson’s disease.



I have been so fortunate to be involved with this amazing community… The intentions of today are not only to bring awareness to this disease and but also to foster hope that a cure is around the corner.

Please visit www.parkinson.ca and see how you can get involved and improve the lives of people living with PD! much love.

road trip!

I’m on a road trip!


It started yesterday with a morning coffee-stop (yum!)

Chilliwack BC


Then, I made it to Vancouver just in time to attend a lovely Parkinson’s support group.




After, I stopped in to visit some (smart, and very helpful!) people here who are going to help me analyze my data!


PPRC at UBC Hospital, Vancouver BC


Over the next few days, I’m going to squeeze in some more data collection…


collecting daily muscle activity with portable electromyography (EMG)


and a bit yoga while I’m here!



Have a good weekend!! much love.

the ABCs of yoga benefits

the research on yoga in academic journals is limited… however, science is starting to catch up with what yoga practitioners have known for years.


April 23, 2001 (click to read full story)


yoga benefits (click on link to read the original research)…


Arthritis & hand-grip strength (Dash & Telles, 2001)

Balance (Schmid, 2010)

Cancer care (DiStasio, 2008)

Depression (Pilkington, 2005)

Effective stress management (Granath, 2006)

Fall-risk (Brown, 2008)

Gait (DiBennedetto)

Heart rate (Cowen)

Inflammation in chronic heart failure patients (Pullen et al., 2008)

Juvenile offenders (Derezotes, 2000)

Kyphosis (Greendale et al., 2009)

Low back pain (Williams, 2005)

Muscular steadiness (Hard & Tracy, 2008)

Non-insulin dependent diabetes (Jain et al., 1993)

Osteoarthritis (kolansinski, 2005)

Pain (chronic) in older adults (Morone, 2007)

Quality of life for dementia caregivers (Waelde)

Respiration (Danucalov)

Stress (Smith)

Treatment of migranes (John et al., 2007)

Urological disorders (Ripoll & Mahowald, 2002)

Verbal aggressiveness (Deshpande, Agendra & Raghuram, 2008)

Wrists, especially carpel tunnel syndrome (Sequeira, 1999)(Garfinkel, 1998)

Xerox photocopy salesmen in the Monashee Mountains (O’Neill & Sargent, 2010)

Youth (weight management & well-being) (Benavides & Caballero, 2009)

Zzzz’s (Chen 2009)

… or check out my contribution to the literature -> (Roland et al., 2011)



… so what are you waiting for?


all rolled up and ready for some yoga!


unroll your mat and do some good for your body, mind, heart & soul. much love.