Scientists believe that they’ve found a link between drinking approximately six cups of coffee per day and a reduced risk of Multiple Sclerosis, and that this link may be due to the neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties of caffeine.
As a central nervous system stimulant, caffeine has the ability to suppress the production of the chemicals involved in the inflammatory response. While further research is needed to see whether drinking coffee can prevent MS development, the findings from this study support growing evidence that coffee may have a beneficial effect on our health.
The researchers analysed data from two studies; one from Sweden which comprised 1620 adults diagnosed with MS together with a 2788 strong comparison group, and a second study from the United States made up of 1159 people with MS and 1172 healthy participants. As part of both studies, the participants were asked about their coffee drinking habits.
In the Swedish study, the participants were questioned about daily coffee consumption, from the ages of 15-19 to 40 plus. In the US study, participants had to quantify their maximum daily consumption. Coffee drinkers who drank one or more cups per day were asked how old they were when they started coffee drinking on a regular basis.
This information was then used to estimate coffee use at and prior to the onset of multiple sclerosis symptoms, comparing this with that of the healthy participants. The results from both the Swedish and the US studies showed that the risk of developing MS was consistently higher among the people who drank less coffee on a daily basis. This remained the case even after other potentially important factors such as smoking and weight during adolescence was taken into account.
As this was a purely observational study, the researchers were unable to draw firm conclusions about cause and effect. Furthermore, changes in coffee consumption between being diagnosed with MS and the collection of the data may have had an influence on the results, not to mention that some participants’ recollection of their coffee consumption could be inaccurate. However, their results confirm findings from animal studies of MS, and suggest that caffeine does offer protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
This research was published online in the 3rd March edition of the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
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