Coffee, Cigarettes, and Parkinson's

October 1, 2007
Coffee, Cigarettes, and Parkinson's

Beata Szpura

In families affected by Parkinson's disease, the people who smoked cigarettes and drank a lot of coffee were less likely to develop the disease, according to a Duke Medical Center study.

Previous studies have suggested that smokers and coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease. However, this is the first study to look specifically at cigarette smoking and caffeine consumption within families affected by the disease, the researchers said.

The findings suggest that both genetic and environmental factors may influence the development of Parkinson's, a progressive neurodegenerative disease marked by trembling of the limbs, stiffness and rigidity of the muscles, and slowness of movement.

The researchers studied the associations between smoking, caffeine, and Parkinson's disease in 356 Parkinson's disease patients and 317 family members without the disease. Individuals with Parkinson's disease were half as likely to report ever smoking and two-thirds less likely to report current smoking compared with unaffected relatives, the researchers found. Individuals with Parkinson's disease were also less likely to drink large amounts of coffee, the researchers found. The findings were published in the journal Archives of Neurology.

Investigators say the biological mechanisms through which smoking and caffeine might work in individuals at risk of Parkinson's disease are still not clear.

Smoking cigarettes and consuming copious amounts of caffeine carry their own risks and should not be taken up in an attempt to avoid developing Parkinson's disease, cautions study investigator Burton L. Scott '76, Ph.D. '84, an associate professor of medicine.