By: Erika Dunayer, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent
(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- From sun up to sun down Americans are on the run. What keeps us going? Caffeine! New research is showing that it could also help Parkinson's movement problems.
Studies have shown that people who use caffeine are less likely to develop Parkinson's disease, but this is one of the first studies in humans to show that caffeine can help with movement symptoms for people who already have the disease.
For the study, 61 people with Parkinson's disease who showed symptoms of daytime sleepiness and some motor symptoms were given either a placebo pill or a pill with 100 milligrams of caffeine. They took the pill two times a day for three weeks, then 200 milligrams twice a day for three weeks.
"We gave them the equivalent of three cups of coffee per day," Ronald Postuma, M.D., MSC, with McGill University in Montreal and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center told Ivanhoe.
After six weeks, the half that took the caffeine supplements averaged a five-point improvement in Parkinson's severity ratings compared to those who didn't consume caffeine. This is a modest improvement, but may be enough to provide benefit to patients.
"What was most intriguing is that the patient's Parkinson's disease improved. The motor problems with their Parkinson's were less severe if they were taking the caffeine," Dr. Postuma said.
"The thing is we don't know how long it is going to last," said Dr. Postuma.
The caffeine group also averaged a three-point improvement in the speed of movement and amount of stiffness compared to the placebo group. Caffeine did not appear to help improve daytime sleepiness and there were no changes in quality of life, depression or sleep quality in study participants.
"I don't think we have enough evidence to say that everyone should go out and start drinking four cups of coffee daily to cure their Parkinson's disease," Dr. Postuma continued.
"There are a lot of patients that think that caffeine is bad for them, well clearly we have proven the opposite," Dr. Postuma concluded.
Source: Interview with Ronald Postuma, MD, MSC, August 1, 2012.