Coffee and Parkinson’s disease
For years, it’s been known that there is a relationship between coffee and Parkinson’s disease. Coffee drinkers appear to have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and some researchers speculated that it might be due to the caffeine. But results for other caffeinated products didn’t always produce the same results.
A new study(1) shows that caffeine, flavones, chlorogenic acid, and quercetin in coffee, all play roles in blocking several toxic substances that cause damage to brain cells. This was not a human trial, rather a study of cells in a laboratory. But, together with the association between coffee and Parkinson’s, it looks promising.
Of all the protective substances in coffee, however, only quercetin – a flavonoid, and antioxidant – helped prevent damage to the cells’ DNA, proteins, and lipids. Further, quercetin chelates iron and may help prevent the abnormal and damaging iron accumulation found in the brains of people with Parkinson’s. It appears, therefore, that quercetin is the chief protective substance in coffee. We may speculate that even if a person has PD, quercetin may still offer a degree of protection, perhaps slowing further damage.
But what about people who drink coffee, yet still develop PD?
Yes, there are people who have been heavy coffee drinkers, who nonetheless develop PD. But we must consider that “lowering risk” is not the same as “absolute prevention.” Clearly coffee and/or quercetin are not the only factors. And that should not be surprising, since we know how differently PD affects people. There may be a genetic component that overrides the effects of coffee and its protective components. There is still a great deal we don’t understand about PD and its causes.
You’d like to include quercetin, but can’t tolerate coffee?
Now, not everyone tolerates coffee, or caffeine for that matter. What if you’d like to include quercetin daily, but coffee isn’t a possibility for you? After all, it seems to be protective against cancer, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease as well as PD. Good news! Quercetin is found in other foods besides coffee beans. If you’d like to increase your intake of quercetin, along with other valuable antioxidants, put some of these in your shopping cart:
- a jar of capers
- onions – the fresher the better
- hot chile peppers
- red wine
- olive oil
- Dark red or blue fruits:
- dark red or purple plums
I would avoid quercetin supplements, because the different antioxidant substances in foods work together to prevent disease, including cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure as well as PD.
(1) Lee M1, McGeer EG1, McGeer PL2. Quercetin, not caffeine, is a major neuroprotective component in coffee. Neurobiol Aging. 2016 Oct;46:113-23. doi: 10.1016