Controlling the level of caffeine in the blood can be a new simple way to help in the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, according to scientists in Japan. The new study found that people with Parkinson’s have significantly lower levels of caffeine in their bodies than healthy ones, even though they drink the same coffees and generally consume similar amounts of caffeine.
Researchers, led by Sindhi Saji of the Maddox University Medical School, who published the publication in the Neurology journal of the American Academy of Neurology, studied 108 Parkinson’s patients for six years, compared with 31 people without the disease.
All participants underwent periodic blood tests for caffeine, as well as for 11 of its byproducts occurring when the body metabolizes it. All were also studied for any mutations in genes that affect caffeine metabolism. Both teams consumed on average the equivalent of about two cups of coffee each day. But patients with Parkinson’s had in their blood much lower levels of caffeine and nine of its byproducts.
Caffeine averaged 70 picomoles per ten microliters in Parkinsonian non-Parkinsonian patients versus 24 picions in Parkinson’s. Statistical analysis showed that a new caffeine test could reliably identify people with Parkinson’s in 98%.
On the other hand, caffeine can not show the severity of the disease, because those patients who are at a more advanced stage do not have even lower levels of caffeine in their blood. This, according to the researchers, means that the caffeine level is reduced already from the early stages of the disease. Genetic analysis has also shown no differences in caffeine-related genes between Parkinson’s and healthy patients.
“If these findings are confirmed by other studies, it can pave the way for a simple early-onset Parkinson’s test, possibly before the first symptoms first occur. This is important because this disease is difficult to diagnose in its early stages, “said Dr. David Munoz of the University of Toronto.