Less than a week to go until I’m drinking coffee again. I miss it so much! I’ve noticed some upsides of not drinking coffee: I’m less panicky, and sweat less – both probably related to caffeine’s effect on adrenaline release. But I’m also slower – I can’t do multiple things at once as well as with coffee – and I had those weird migraines I wrote about last week. I also really miss having easy access to a drink that switches my brain on in the mornings.
Some of the benefits of caffeine are not even obvious immediately. Just over a decade ago, I was writing a literature summary as part of my masters requirement in pharmacology. I picked a topic that sounded interesting, and spent a few weeks digging through papers to write a review. The topic I chose was “New drug treatments for Parkinson’s disease”.
The thing with discoveries in science is that you need to be in the right place at the right time, and a lot of that is luck. I was never lucky in research, but this one time, writing the Parkinson’s literature report, my timing was perfect. While I was doing lit research, a new study came out that suggested that caffeine was able to prevent the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Caffeine! Of all the drug treatments I was researching, this newest one was definitely the coolest. It was not in any of our course material yet, and my oral presentation on the paper was the first time several of the professors in the department heard about it. I won an award for this literature review at the time, thanks in a large part to this lucky timing, but now, a decade later, the effect of caffeine on Parkinson’s is well-known.
The paper I read during my masters was “Neuroprotection by Caffeine and A2A Adenosine Receptor Inactivation in a Model of Parkinson’s Disease“ In this study, mice were given a small amount of caffeine, which by body weight ratio would amount to about a cup per day for a human. This was enough to slow down the hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease: the loss of dopamine in the striatal part of the brain.
This experiment on mice didn’t come out of the blue. Before then, people had already noticed that Parkinson’s was less common in people who drank coffee regularly. The mouse study was just a way to figure out how it worked. Caffeine blocks the A(2A) adenosine receptor, and according to this study, that’s the mechanism by which it helps prevent Parkinson’s.
Since this study, lots more evidence has been found that shows that caffeine protects against Parkinson’s disease. Recently, one study even suggested that coffee can work as a treatment as well. At three cups of coffee per day, Parkinson’s patients were relieved of some of their symptoms.
So for all the jitters it causes in healthy people, caffeine seems to have the opposite effect on Parkinson’s patients. And if you drink coffee regularly, in moderation, your chances of even getting Parkinson’s are significantly reduced.
And this is just one of the reasons why I could never quit coffee for good.