Coffee Offers Protection Against Parkinson’s Disease

First Posted: Jul 11, 2014 02:28 AM EDT

Researchers have identified a genetic variation that offers protection against Parkinson's disease; the benefit is more prominent in those who consume a lot of coffee.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects a person's movement. Due to this chronic condition, part of the brain gets progressively damaged over several years. It was originally called as shaking palsy. It is the 14th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a new finding, researchers at the Linkoping University in Sweden identified a variant of GRIN2A gene that acts as a protective factor against Parkinson's.

This is not the first study that suggests caffeine as a reasonable treatment to lower the risk of developing the disease. Another study documented in journal Neurology claimed that caffeine is also a good treatment for Parkinson's disease motor symptoms.

Several researchers have identified genes and exposures that elevate the risk of disease. But at the same time, there exists genetic variation, mutations and environmental factors that offer protection against the emergence of certain diseases.

In Parkinson's disease, both genetic and environmental factors are involved. The corresponding protein is a part of a complex that plays a crucial role in various neurodegenerative diseases.

In this study, the researchers offer an explanation to the protective effects offered by increased intake of caffeine on the development of Parkinson's. Caffeine integrates with a dopamine receptor that controls the flow of calcium into the cell.  

"As dopamine is part of the human reward system, and the interaction of caffeine with it, it has been speculated that individuals with certain genetic variations are not "rewarded" to the same extent by a cup of coffee, and therefore would not enjoy the same protective effect as others. The newly published study shows that GRIN2A can be a part of such a genetic predisposition," researchers note.

The finding was documented in journal PLOS One.

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