Friday, 27 February 2015

Could Coffee Lower Risk of Multiple Sclerosis?


Studies link several cups daily with reduced odds for the disease

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 26, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- People who down several cups of coffee every day may have a decreased risk of developing multiple sclerosis, a new study suggests.

The study, of 5,600 Swedish and U.S. adults, found that those who drank four to six cups of coffee a day were about one-third less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS), compared with people who did not drink coffee.

Researchers stressed that the findings do not prove that coffee fights MS -- a disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective sheath around nerve fibers in the brain and spine. Symptoms can include muscle weakness, numbness, vision problems and difficulty with balance and coordination.

"This doesn't mean we should be recommending rampant coffee drinking," said lead researcher Dr. Ellen Mowry, an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

There could, for instance, be something else about coffee drinkers -- such as a diet or lifestyle habit -- that is the real explanation behind their lower MS risk, Mowry explained.

"Until we are able to prove that coffee -- or some component of coffee, like caffeine -- is actually helpful, we can't make any recommendations," she cautioned.

And that is partly because all that caffeine could have negative effects, too, she said.

Still, the findings do build on evidence that coffee and possibly caffeine specifically are "neuroprotective," Mowry said. Higher coffee intake has been linked to lower risks of other diseases that involve degeneration in brain cells, including Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's, she noted.

And, Mowry added, scientists have found that high caffeine intake can protect lab mice from developing an MS-like condition -- by blocking part of the inflammatory process that damages nerves in the brain and spine.

"So it's plausible that coffee has some protective effect, with the caveat that a lot of things seen in lab animals do not pan out in humans," Mowry said.

She is scheduled to present the findings -- which are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal -- in April, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Washington, D.C. The academy released the results Thursday, ahead of the conference.

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