WEDNESDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Caffeine has previously been linked to a lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease, but now new research says the ubiquitous stimulant may also help treat disease symptoms.
In a small study of 61 people with Parkinson's disease, Canadian researchers found that giving the caffeine equivalent of about three cups of coffee per day improved motor symptoms, such as slow movement and stiffness. Interestingly, caffeine didn't significantly improve daytime sleepiness, a common symptom in Parkinson's disease.
"Caffeine treats Parkinson's disease," said the study's lead author, Dr. Ronald Postuma, an associate professor in the department of neurology at McGill University in Montreal.
"There was a modest effect on sleepiness that didn't reach statistical significance, but I think it was clear that it helps patients," he said. "Where we saw the most potential benefit from caffeine was on motor aspects and symptoms. People felt better and were more energetic. You could see on the exam that they were better."
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder that causes shaking, stiffness, slow movements and difficulty with balance. More than one million Americans have Parkinson's disease, and more than 50,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation.
In the current study, published in the Aug. 1 online edition of the journal Neurology, half of the group of Parkinson's patients was randomly assigned to receive caffeine treatment, while the other half received an inactive placebo.
To be included in the study, the volunteers had to consume less than 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine daily -- about two cups of coffee -- and they couldn't have any heart rhythm problems, uncontrolled high blood pressure, or an active ulcer.
For the first three weeks of the study
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