Despite extensive research, medical science has been unable to discover a cure or a definitive cause for Parkinson’s disease. Lifestyle, environmental factors and genetics all may have a role, but there is no clear consensus on prevention of this devastating neurodegenerative illness.

However, a body of credible research points to a possible link between coffee and Parkinson’s disease prevention, with indications that coffee may have a role both in delaying onset and relieving symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease has been the topic of numerous significant studies in an ongoing effort to gain further understanding about all aspects of the disease, including the role of coffee and caffeine. For example, landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (link to abstract in Research highlights) in 2000 examined subjects for a correlation between Parkinson’s disease and coffee intake. It concluded that higher coffee and caffeine intake is associated with significantly lower Parkinson’s incidence.

Similarly, a 2001 study published in the Annals of Neurology (link to abstract in Research highlights) by a team of researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health was conducted as an arm of the massive Health Professionals’ Follow Up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study. It concluded that there may be a possible protective effect from moderate coffee consumption of one to three cups per day.

The mode of action whereby coffee may have a role in Parkinson’s is not clearly understood. It is believed that it may prevent the loss of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which is depleted with Parkinson’s disease. A study published in the journal Neurology (link to abstract in Research highlights) in 2002 worked with an animal model of Parkinson’s to explore this theory.

My father has Parkinson’s disease and I want to do everything I can to make sure I don’t ever suffer from this illness. Will drinking coffee have any effect?

As a health professional, I am always cautious about making recommendations. Various research studies support the possibility that coffee may reduce your risk of developing Parkinson’s, although at this point this connection is not absolutely proven and so medical experts are hesitant to suggest that we increase our coffee consumption for this purpose. Understanding of the prevention, causes and cure for this devastating disease is still evolving.