August 7, 2012

Coffee: Prolongs Life, Helps Parkinsonians!

At last! One of my addictions may actually prolong my life, not shorten it. A study published May 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that older adults who drink coffee may be less likely than non-drinkers to die from a number of causes.

In the largest study yet of coffee and health, researchers reviewed data on 229,119 men and 173,141 women (all aged 50-71) who took part in a National Institutes of Health dietary study. Participants were asked about their coffee consumption when the study began in 1995 and were followed through 2008. Men who drank six or more cups of coffee each day had been 10% less likely to die. Woo-HOO!

Decaffeinated or high-test, coffee was associated with lowered risk of death from heart disease, diabetes, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection -- but not cancer. The study doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship between coffee drinking and reduced risk of death, only an association between the two. But as coffee consumption increased , risk of death decreased: evidence that suggests the connection may not be mere coincidence.

Other studies bolster the cause-effect connection.

Coffee and Parkinson's
As I reported in an earlier post, several studies suggest that coffee consumption may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson's... although my daily habit didn't help me. Now, a new study intimates that drinking coffee might help with movement for those of us who already have Parkinson's.
In a study done at McGill University in Montreal and reported in the Journal of Neurology, 61 people with Parkinson's were given either a placebo pill or a pill with 100 milligrams of caffeine two times a day for three weeks, then 200 milligrams twice a day for another three weeks, which was the equivalent of between two and four cups of coffee a day. The half that took the caffeine supplements averaged a five-point improvement in Parkinson's severity ratings compared to the placebo group. The caffeine group also averaged a three-point improvement in the speed of movement and amount of stiffness compared to the placebo group.
This is a modest improvement, but it still may be enough to provide benefit to people with Parkinson's, the research report said. Caffeine consumption did not appear to reduce daytime sleepiness, lift depression, or improve sleep or quality of life in the participants.

An accompanying editorial in the Journal of Neurology says:
The study is especially interesting since caffeine seems to block a malfunctioning brain signal in Parkinson's disease and is so safe and inexpensive. Although the results do not suggest that caffeine should be used as a treatment in Parkinson's disease, they can be taken into consideration when people with Parkinson's are discussing their caffeine use with their neurologist.
The study authors note that the length of the study was short, and the effects of caffeine may decrease over time.

Coffee May Deter Diabetes and Doesn't Increase the Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke
study published earlier this year involving 42,000 healthy Germans concluded that coffee does not increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. What's more, it found that people who consumed at least three cups a day of regular or decaffeinated coffee were about 25 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes over the nine-year study period than those who drank little or no coffee.

Earlier Studies Reinforce Benefits of Coffee Consumption
In two posts last year, I reported on other studies suggesting possible health benefits from coffee. In one post, I reported on a study in which the lead author concluded:
We firmly believe that moderate coffee consumption can appreciably reduce your risk of Alzheimer's or delay its onset. 
In the other post, I reported on a half dozen studies suggesting a wide range of coffee's health benefits, from reducing stroke risk to warding off prostate cancer.

Time to go brew a pot.


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