Coffee-drug for Parkinson’s and dementias?

We have been told the benefits of caffeine (see more info HERE).

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What researchers are finding is that caffeine, the world’s most widely used drug, does more than wake people up. Caffeine is linked to improvements in memory and appears to protect against the destruction of brain cells. One of the results find that people who drank two or more cups of coffee a day had a 40 percent lower risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Because of these findings, some companies have been designing drugs to replicate the benefits of caffeine. The challenge is to go beyond the buzz of caffeine to achieve a more powerful effect on the brain — without side effects like headaches, irritability and jitters. But this hasn’t been easy. For example, Merck ended development of such a treatment for Parkinson’s disease last year after late-stage testing suggested it didn’t work. Other developers have postponed plans.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s. Drug developers are focusing on the way caffeine targets sites in an area deep in the brain called the basal ganglia, which is affected by Parkinson’s and plays a key role in movement. The medicines specifically aims to target and block adenosine A2A receptors. The goal of drug-makers is to improve movement in Parkinson’s; existing treatments become less effective over time, and side effects harder to endure.

… what are your thoughts on a “coffee pill” for the brain? Do you consume caffeine? much love.

more information and adapted from:

This is your brain on coffee

For hundreds of years, coffee has been one of the two or three most popular beverages on earth.

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In a large scale epidemiological study (National Cancer Institute 2012), men who reported drinking two or three cups of coffee a day were 10 percent less likely to have died than those who didn’t drink coffee, while women drinking the same amount had 13 percent less risk of dying during the study.

Other studies have linked three or four 5-ounce cups of coffee a day with more specific advantages: a reduction in the risk of developing:

And, most importantly (?), animal experiments show that caffeine may reshape the biochemical environment inside our brains in ways that could stave off dementia. In a 2012 study, caffeinated mice regained their ability to form new memories 33 percent faster than uncaffeinated mice. This might be related to adenosine, which both provides energy AND can be destructive under stress; leading to inflammation, disruptive neuron function and neurodegeneration. And in a 2012 Florida study with humans, persons with little or no caffeine circulating in their bloodstreams were far more likely to  progress from MCI to full-blown Alzheimer’s than those whose blood indicated they’d had about three cups’ worth of caffeine.

However, we still have so much to learn about the effects of caffeine. “But a cup of coffee “has been popular for a long, long time,” Dr. Freund says, “and there’s probably good reasons for that.” much love.

Adapted from: Reynolds, Gretchen. This is your brain on Coffee. NY Times, June 6 2013.

A cup of coffee a day keeps dyskinesias away?

sippin espresso in lagos portugal

Previous research has shown coffee to protect against Parkinson’s disease (see more info HERE).

Studies also show that coffee may help lessen some of Parkinson symptoms during daily life (Postuma et al., 2012 American Academy of Neurology) – see link HERE

New research now shows that coffee may help with dyskinesias, or uncontrollable movements, associated with Parkinson’s (Jenner 2013 Mov Disord).

The hypothesis is that coffee may act on an adenosine receptor (A2a). A2a, when inhibited, seems to enhance dopamine’s effect on the brain. It is thought that caffeine may inhibit A2a receptors, resulting in increased inhibition and increased effect of dopamine.

This has potential for drug development related to ON/OFF fluctuations and uncontrollable dyskinesias, as a result of dopaminergic medication!


very interesting! what are some of your experiences with caffeine? any noticeable benefits/irritants?

much love.

from research to real life – caffeine may help Parkinson’s symptoms

How many of us make it a daily ritual of grinding and brewing a cup at home, or swinging by our local coffee spot?

Well, now research is showing that not only are coffee-drinkers less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, but that caffeine may improve motor symptoms in persons living with Parkinson’s …

The main idea: after giving people with Parkinson’s a caffeine dose (equal to 3 cups of coffee a day), significant improvements in motor symptoms (UPDRS motor score) were seen compared to those given placebos. It is thought that caffeine may block a brain receptor (adenosine A2 “antagonist”) and improve dopamine transmission.

Research : Caffeine for Treatment of Parkinson’s disease: an RCT (Neurology)

Real life : Caffeine May Help Ease Parkinson’s Symptoms (The Globe and Mail)

However, results should be interpreted with caution as the sample was small, trial was of short duration, and it’s hard to blind participants who received caffeine and who received placebo (hello, caffeine withdrawal headache!).

Well, cheers to that research! much love.

P.S. like coffee? check these out; the caffeinator, coffee and risk for PD, michael j fox foundation

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)