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Science News

A Fresh Look at Coffee, Alcohol, and Smoking as Risk Factors in PD

The Rotterdam Study (the Netherlands) was begun in 1990 as a prospective, population-based study of persons aged 55 and over. Nearly seven thousand persons were screened for parkinsonism. Follow-up exams were done in 1993-94 and again in 1997-99. Most of these people were asked about ever using smoking products, alcohol, and coffee. (In medical parlance, using these products is called “novelty-seeking behavior and addiction”.)

At the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting, clinicians participating in the Rotterdam Study presented data on almost six thousand older adults, 53 of whom had developed Parkinson’s disease over the years. Their conclusions should not be interpreted as suggestions.

Smokers had an almost fifty percent reduced risk of PD. Further, the higher the consumption of either alcohol or coffee, the lower the risks of PD. The scientists concluded that they agreed with a previously tendered hypothesis: That persons exhibiting novelty-seeking behaviors have higher endogenous (within themselves) dopamine levels which, when aging is factored in, may protect them from such neurodegenerative disorders as PD.

Still Another Look at Coffee

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) reduces the risk of PD in women who consume little caffeine, according to a study reported in the journal “Neurology”. The study, conducted by Dr. A. Ascherio and colleagues, concluded further that , combined with the consumption of large amounts of caffeine, HRT raises the risk of PD.

The study involved 18 years of follow-up on more than 77,000 post-menopausal women in the Nurses’ Health Study. Of the total, 154 women developed PD. Total caffeine intake was quantified for coffee, tea, and chocolate, and HRT use during the study period was classified as either “ever” or “never”.

HRT by itself was neither a risk factor nor a protective factor for PD. HRT and the equivalent of less than half a cup of coffee per day was associated with a 65% reduction in the risk of PD. HRT and the equivalent of more than five cups per day increased the risk of PD by 150%. HRT plus intermediate amounts of caffeine had little or no effect on PD risk.

For women who did not use HRT, caffeine intake reduced the PD risk, with a 40% reduction for the heaviest users versus those who drank little or none. All risks were corrected for the use of cigarettes.

The authors report that their results suggest that “the inconsistency of the association between use of post-menopausal hormones and the risk of PD in previous studies could be due to a caffeine-estrogen interaction.”

Source Date: Apr 03 2003