A new study from McGill University in Montreal finds that people with Parkinson’s disease who take caffeine pills see noticeable improvements in movement problems related to the condition.
“Because caffeine is very safe, it is definitely worth trying for patients with Parkinson’s disease,” said lead researcher Dr. Ronald Postuma.
More than 50,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation. Typical symptoms include shaking and trouble with movement and coordination.
It’s been known for decades that using caffeine could dramatically reduce a person’s chances of getting Parkinson’s disease. But this study provides the first evidence that caffeine can help alleviate symptoms of the condition once it has been contracted.
Researchers randomly assigned 61 people with Parkinson’s and in their mid-60s, on average, to six weeks of caffeine pills or identical drug-free placebo pills.
Participants in the caffeine group took 100 milligrams when they woke up and again after lunch for the first three weeks, then were bumped up to 200 milligrams twice a day for the rest of the study.
People taking caffeine reported a clear improvement in measures of muscle rigidity and other movement problems.
Postuma said that levodopa, the main drug prescribed for Parkinson’s disease, has a benefit three times greater than what his team found for caffeine pills. Therefore, caffeine would not be used to replace levodopa, but it could confer a significant improvement in symptoms nonetheless.
Of course, caffeine pills can be purchased over-the-counter for a few cents each. People suffering from Parkinson’s disease should at least consider adding caffeine to their medications or increasing the amount of caffeine they are consuming.