More About the Benefits of Coffee

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Coffee has been shown to have direct benefits on patients with Parkinson's disease and asthma. Here we look at the evidence that helps illustrate just how.Coffee has been shown to have direct benefits on patients with Parkinson’s disease and asthma. Here we look at the evidence that helps illustrate just how.

Several large population studies show a promising relationship between coffee consumption and reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease. Men who did not drink coffee had a three to five times higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease in the next 24 to 30 years, as compared to those who drank at least 28 ounces a day. Men in the one study who drank at least one cup of coffee a day reduced their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 50% in the next 10 years, as compared to those who drank no coffee at all.

In a study with more than 500,000 adults, the link between coffee consumption and Parkinson’s disease was found just in men, but not in women. In a Finnish study with over 29,000 men and women followed for 13 years, the male and female combined risk of Parkinson’s disease was reduced by 47% (one to four cups per day) and by 60% (over five cups a day.

The use of estrogen seems to impact the effect of caffeine in postmenopausal women since the inverse relationship between coffee consumption and Parkinson’s disease mortality was only seen in postmenopausal women who never used estrogen and not in those do did. In fact, those postmenopausal women who had use estrogen and drank more than six cups of coffee a day had a significantly increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

The positive effects of caffeine on asthma symptoms were first appreciated in 1859. This is not surprising, since the chemical structure of caffeine resembles a commonly prescribed asthma drug, “theophylline.” There are several large population studies that show a definite relationship between drinking coffee and a lower incidence of asthmatic attacks.

A national survey involving over 20,000 Americans clearly showed that the risk of asthma dropped by 29% and the risk of wheezing by 13% when regular coffee drinkers were compared to non-drinkers.

In a large Italian study involving over 72,000 individuals over age 15, researchers showed that there was an inverse relationship between intake of coffee and the prevalence of asthma. The more coffee consumed, the lower the risk of asthma. The risk of developing asthma was lower after one, two and three cups by five percent, 23% and 28%, respectively.

Over 100 years ago, caffeine was used to treat asthma. Nowadays, there are high-quality clinical studies that confirm this beneficial effect.

Nine asthmatic adults were assigned to either decaffeinated coffee plus varying amounts of added caffeine up to 7.2 mg/kg body weight at one time, or decaffeinated coffee plus a standard asthma drug, aminophylline (200 mg), on other days. This study showed that caffeine was equivalent to 40% the effectiveness of aminophylline in dilating the small airways.

In 10 healthy subjects, 10 mg/kg of caffeine reversed the constriction of small airways provoked by dry gas hyperventilation. In a recent meta-analysis of the highest quality clinical studies, the authors concluded: “Caffeine appears to improve airways function modestly, for up to four hours, in people with asthma.”

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