60-Second Science

Coffee and Cigarettes May Protect Some Against Parkinson's

Although tobacco and large amounts of caffeine are risk factors for many conditions, they apparently confer some protection to those with a predisposition for Parkinson's.

There’s good news about…coffee and cigarettes???  Well, there is, in families where there’s a risk of Parkinson’s disease anyway.  Parkinson’s again is the nerve degeneration condition marked by tremors. 

Previous studies implied that smokers and coffee drinkers might have a lower risk of developing the condition.  So researchers at Duke University Medical Center took histories from 356 Parkinson’s disease patients and another 317 disease-free relatives of those patients.  In the April issue of the journal Archives of Neurology they reported the finding that the Parkinson’s sufferers were only about half as likely to have smoked as were their non-affected relatives and also were far less likely to drink much coffee.  Why smoking and coffee drinking apparently protect against the disease remains a mystery. 

The researchers were quick to point out that tobacco and large amounts of caffeine are risk factors for other conditions and should not be adopted in a misguided attempt at health.  Rather, the associations between coffee, cigarettes and Parkinson’s should point the way to further research to examine what kinds of environmental influences may be moderating the genetic predisposition toward the development of Parkinson’s disease. Rather, the associations between coffee cigarettes and Parkinsons should guide research to find out how environmental influences moderate the disease. 

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