• Coffee may reduce risk for multiple sclerosis (MS)

    Drinking coffee may reduce the risk for multiple sclerosis (MS). The surprising finding was verified by to large independent studies, one from Sweden and one from the United States.

    The studies

    The Swedish study included 1,629 people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and 2,807 healthy people. The U.S. study included 1,159 people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and 1,172 healthy people. The researchers investigated the effects of coffee consumption one and five years before MS symptoms began. The studies compared people drinking coffee to people not drinking coffee.

    Independently verified

    “A strength of this study is that the finding was independently verified in two different populations of people (Sweden and US studies), and the magnitude of the association was similar in the two studies,” said Dr Mowry.

    The findings

    “Caffeine intake has been associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and our study shows that coffee intake may also protect against multiple sclerosis (MS), supporting the idea that the drug may have protective effects for the brain,” said study author Ellen Mowry, MD, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

    How much coffee is protective?

    Findings of the Swedish study: people drinking at least six cups of coffee per day during the year before symptoms appeared had a 1.5 times decreased risk of developing multiple sclerosis, MS.

    Findings of the Swedish study: people drinking at least four cups of coffee per day during the year before symptoms appeared had a 1.5 times decreased risk of developing multiple sclerosis, MS.

    The mechanism

    Caffeine has neuroprotective properties and seems to suppress the production of proinflammatory cytokines, which may be mechanisms that explain the observed association. However, “The mechanism is unclear and it would be speculative to pinpoint one mechanism. Interestingly, caffeine has been shown to impact the function of specific immune cells within the brain called microglia. However, impacts on other aspects of the immune and/or nervous systems are plausible as well” said Dr Mowry.

    Should I start drinking large amounts of coffee?

    The findings of the two independent studies are impressive but we must keep the potential health risks of drinking this much coffee in mind. Therefore at this point it cannot be advised to drink this much coffee on daily basis. Much more interesting is the future research. If the mechanism behind the findings is understood future treatments can use this mechanism to treat or prevent Multiple Sclerosis.

    More information about multiple sclerosis (MS)

    Here you will find more information about multiple sclerosis (MS)

    Study Supported by: Swedish Medical Research Council; Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare; Knut and Alice Wallenberg, AFA, and Swedish Brain Foundations; Swedish Association for Persons with Neurological Disabilities; NIH/NINDS R01 NS049510; R01 NS0495103; NIH/NIAID R01 A1076544

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