The Potential Benefits of Coffee and Cinnamon for PARKINSON’S DISEASE
Two research articles published very recently could make you think that a breakfast of multiple cups of strong coffee and cinnamon rolls was deliciously beneficial for people with PARKINSON’S DISEASE. The first article is from a team of researchers at Linkoping University in Sweden. They very carefully looked at the relationship of coffee and a genetic variation specific to PARKINSON’S DISEASE. The second study came from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL and looked at the potentially beneficial effects of cinnamon as a neuroprotective anti-oxidant for PARKINSON’S DISEASE. Alas and unfortunately, what makes for good research news is not necessarily good practical advice.
The Swedish coffee research studied 570 subjects from southeastern Sweden, 193 who had PARKINSON’S DISEASE AND 377 controls. PARKINSON’S DISEASE is thought to result from a complex interaction of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. While many of the genes involved in PARKINSON’S have been isolated, interactions of individual genes with environmental factors have been much more difficult to study. This group looked at one single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), a specific genetic modifier that has been found in many people with PARKINSON’S DISEASE. They genotyped all the subjects to determine if they carried this SNP, then they interviewed them to establish their levels of coffee drinking or caffeine use, either high or low. They then studied the effects of heavy caffeine consumption or light consumption on this specific SNP and found that heavy caffeine consumption, especially on a particular form of the SNP did provide a protective benefit.
The study of cinnamon from Rush University looked at the benefits of this widely used cooking and baking spice on the brains of mice. They found that “after oral feeding, ground cinnamon is metabolized into sodium benzoate, which then enters into the brain, stops the loss of Parkin and DJ-1, protects neurons, normalizes neurotransmitter levels, and improves motor functions in mice with PD” Parkin and DJ-1 are proteins that are known to be compromised by oxidative stress in people with PARKINSON’S. In this way, sodium benzoate could act as an anti-oxidant, to preserve the cells. Dr. Kalipada Pahan, the principal investigator of this study enthusiastically states: “Now we need to translate this finding to the clinic and test ground cinnamon in patients with PD. If these results are replicated in PD patients, it would be a remarkable advance in the treatment of this devastating neurodegenerative disease”
But not so fast, here. Using anti-oxidants to preserve brain cells is an idea that has shown many good results in mice but has not proved definitively effective in humans. Cinnamon is just the newest candidate. More research on the benefit of cinnamon is in order. Cinnamon breaks down into sodium benzoate in the liver. Sodium benzoate does not have a great reputation, particularly as an additive to food. In small quantities, chemically produced sodium benzoate is added to commercial food products as an anti-microbial and a preservative to extend shelf life. It is also found in pickles, salsas, processed lunchmeats, sodas and juice drinks. When it combines with acids, such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid) it forms benzene, which is a known carcinogen. While the sodium benzoate added to food is of a manufactured nature, it is consumed in very small quantities and the Food and Drug Administration does not consider it dangerous although the cumulative effects have not been thoroughly studied. More research on the safety and effectiveness of cinnamon to protect people from Parkinson’s disease will be informative.
You can still enjoy a cinnamon roll and a good strong cup of coffee…just don’t expect them to deliver the neuroprotection needed to resolve your PARKINSON’S symptoms!
Naomi Yamada-Fowler, Mats Fredrikson, Peter Söderkvist. Caffeine Interaction with Glutamate Receptor Gene GRIN2A: Parkinson’s Disease in Swedish Population. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (6): e99294 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099294
Saurabh Khasnavis, Kalipada Pahan. Cinnamon Treatment Upregulates Neuroprotective Proteins Parkin and DJ-1 and Protects Dopaminergic Neurons in a Mouse Model of Parkinson’s Disease. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s11481-014-9552-2
Review by Marcia McCall