Caffeine considered a cautionary clue to Parkinson’s onset

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/A Crotty
©iStock/A Crotty

Related tags: Parkinson

Caffeine levels in the blood could be used to predict the onset of Parkinson’s disease, a study suggests - as results add further weight to the neuroprotective effects of caffeine.

Scientists, who found caffeine levels to be significantly lower in individuals with the neurodegenerative disorder, speculate that these concentrations could be used as an indicator of Parkinson’s, particularly in its early stages.

“Our goal is to develop clinical methods for the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease based on blood tests,”​ said Professor Nobutaka Hattori, lead study author and chairman of the department of neurology at Juntendo University in Japan.

“We are focusing on elucidating fundamental treatments by looking at the function of genes. Recent research findings include the effectiveness of silcarntitne biomarkers and the effectiveness of caffeine biomarkers for diagnosing Parkinson’s disease.”

Biomarkers are the objective measures used to diagnose, track and treat Parkinson's. Currently, no definitive biomarkers for Parkinson's have been identified.

By gathering comprehensive biomarker samples and data from a variety of sources, the theory is a combination of markers to test for Parkinson's could be deduced given the disease's variable nature.

Clinical symptoms, such as smell loss and sleep changes, could be combined with a blood-based marker to more accurately identify Parkinson’s risk in more people.

Study details

In a series of experiments, the team examined caffeine levels and 11 associated metabolites in 108 patients with Parkinson’s disease and 31 healthy volunteers.

Volunteers were asked to drink two cups of coffee on average per day. Results showed that people with Parkinson’s had significantly lower levels of caffeine in their blood compared to the control participants, and nine of the 11 by-products were detected.

Genetic studies on degrading enzymes found no difference in caffeine-related genes between the two groups.

Results showed that people with Parkinson’s had levels of caffeine levels that had decreased to about one third of the concentration found in healthy subjects. In addition, nine other metabolites had also decreased in concentration.

There was no significant difference in genes related to enzyme degradation.

“We reported that caffeine and its degradation products were significantly decreased in patients with Parkinson’s disease,”​ said Dr Shinji Saiki, study co-author and associate professor at Juntendo University.

“Based on these results, we concluded that decomposition of caffeine is not regressing in Parkinson’s disease patients, due to them not being able to take up caffeine as well.

“As a background to this research, at least seven studies have shown that people who ingest more than a certain amount of caffeine have low incidences of Parkinson’s disease.”

‘Intriguing but needs replication’

Mark Frasier, senior vice president of research programs at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, told Healthday​, "I think this study is very intriguing. We need ways to measure and diagnose Parkinson's disease."

He added, "This is a relatively small study from one site. It needs to be replicated with a different, larger population."

In looking at possibilities for the future, Dr Saiki believed that Parkinson’s disease could one day be diagnosed with high probability by determining the level of caffeine and the nine specific metabolites in blood tests.

He predicted that the onset of Parkinson’s disease could be prevented by administering caffeine through the skin - an area of research he was currently pursuing.

Source: Neurology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004888
“Serum caffeine and metabolites are reliable biomarkers of early Parkinson disease.”
Authors: Nobutaka Hattori et al

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