Coffee and Parkinson's Disease

Coffee and Parkinson’s disease

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.

Coffee and Parkinson's
Cup of coffee and coffee beans on wooden table

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
  • kale
  • asparagus
  • parsley
  • red wine
  • olive oil
  • Dark red or blue fruits:
  • dark red or purple plums
  • blueberries
  • blackberries
  • cranberries
  • cherries
  • apples
  • grapes

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

Comments 5

  1. Harold Young
    March 3, 2017

    I would like to put in a word on the issue of not taking quercetin as a supplement. I am not a fan of supplements unless there is a compelling reason for them. I am not a PD patient. My wife is. However this is about me. I have a diagnosis of MS, which may be more or less correct. I certainly have a lot of the symptoms, but a lot of differences also. Let’s just say my central nervous system is a mess.

    I first saw reference to quercetin in a Scientific American issue last Fall (2016)–September issue I believe. You mentioned its antioxidant function, which is important, but didn’t mention its anti-senescent cell function which could be very important to PD patients and everyone else with neurological issues.

    I began taking about 150 mg a day a couple months ago and saw no particular effect until recently. Now I see two changes of which I credit quercetin as the cause of at least one, possibly both. I have had a dystonia in my hands for several years and it seems to be gone. If it stays gone I’ll be very appreciative. The other is relief from sciatica. I have had sciatica since I was in grade school. It does wax and wane. If it stays gone I’ll credit the quercetin with this too.

    There have been animal studies indicating that it would be effective for PD-like problems. One was carried out by Mayo and Scripps and can be looked up on the Mayo web site. The problem with this study is that it involved a massive dose. On the other hand, there is no reason to take dangerous amounts. What is needed is enough to begin clearing out dead cells which are causing tissue damage. Work needs to be done on what dosage would be effective. Maybe your blog is good place to begin such evaluation.

    1. khadmin
      March 6, 2017

      Harold, thank you for your comments, and your testimonial regarding quercetin supplements. I do think there is a strong possibility that quercetin has value for those with PD, and I would be happy to endorse quercetin supplements if I knew for certain that they were both effective and safe. The problem is that, a number of times scientists have isolated a component of a food that is effective for health; but when given in supplement form, it is ineffective. In the case of smokers, for example, scientists thought that beta-carotene, a powerful carotenoid, would benefit them but in a study found that not only did it fail to help, but more smokers taking beta carotene died than those in the control group. There are other similar studies regarding other supplements. So I am reluctant to recommend supplements unless they have a very good record of safety and effectiveness. I do very much hope, however, that your experience will be replicated; that would really make my day!

  2. Harold Young
    March 9, 2017

    Thanks! I also still have several such questions. There are a couple of people I will address these to and with luck we can proceed from there. If we wait for the CDC or NIH we will all have died of old age.

    I have been taking 150 mg. A few days ago I was in a store which sells supplements and out of curiosity I checked what levels are available. Some were combined with other chemicals which am not familiar with. Others in amounts ranging from 500 to 1200 mg. From what I’ve read these quantities would be crazy. I fill my own capsules.

    1. khadmin
      March 9, 2017

      I think it’s very wise to locate a reliable supplier of quercetin and fill your own capsules. Like “cooking from scratch” rather than buying frozen dinners or canned soups, you know exactly what ingredients are in your meal. Please do keep us up to date on your investigations and the results, and thanks for commenting!

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