Image of Grace Crotty, M.D.
Grace Crotty, M.D.

Coffee consumption may be associated with a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, even for those who are genetically susceptible, according to researchers.

Although their study does not prove that caffeine consumption directly protects people from the disease, it raises some compelling questions, the authors said.

“We don’t know yet whether people who are predisposed to Parkinson’s may tend to avoid drinking coffee or if some mutation carriers drink a lot of coffee and benefit from its neuroprotective effects,” said study lead Grace Crotty, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Crotty and team compared caffeine blood levels and coffee consumption in nearly 370 people with and without Parkinson’s disease. Each group included some people with the LRRK2 gene mutation that increases Parkinson’s risk and some without the mutation. 

Among participants carrying the gene mutation, those with Parkinson’s had a 76% lower concentration of caffeine in their blood than those who did not have Parkinson’s. Meanwhile, participants with the disease but not the mutation had a 31% lower concentration of caffeine in their blood than non-carriers without Parkinson’s, Crotty and colleagues reported.

What’s more, mutation carriers with Parkinson’s consumed 41% less caffeine per day than study participants who did not have Parkinson’s, both with and without the gene mutation.

The results follow findings from earlier studies that coffee consumption may protect people without the genetic risk factor against developing Parkinson’s disease. 

Full findings were published in the online issue of Neurology.