Coffee Could Help Keep This Disease Away

Multiple sclerosis was less common among heavy coffee drinkers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The cause of multiple sclerosis (MS) is unknown, but new evidence suggests that coffee could lower your risk for it.

Several cups of coffee a day could be protective against MS, a new study found.

“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 MS, “ said lead study author Ellen Mowry, MD, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, in a press release.

Dr. Mowry said this study supports “the idea that the drug [caffeine] may have protective effects for the brain.”

Dr. Mowry and team studied more than 2,700 people with MS and nearly 4,000 without. They asked these patients about their coffee habits.

Patients who drank around 4 cups of coffee per day on average were about 1.5 times less likely than those who drank less coffee to develop MS. Drinking that much coffee per day for a longer period of time appeared to raise the potential protective benefits.

Matthew McCoyd, MD, a neurologist and MS specialist at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, told dailyRx News he has heard that caffeine could help prevent other neurological disorders and wasn’t surprised to learn that it may help prevent MS.

However, he said he would wait until there was more research before recommending caffeine to patients, especially at the protective levels in this study.

“It does seem like a lot, particularly for a group of patients who are already at risk for bladder symptoms,” Dr. McCoyd said. “Caffeine is a bladder irritant, so large consumption is going to drive urinary symptoms.”

In an interview with dailyRx News, Dr. Mowry said she and her colleagues did not look at what people added to the coffee they consumed. However, “there may be other behaviors associated with increased coffee consumption — for example, better overall diet or better exercisers — that is the real link with lower odds of MS,” she said.

In past research, coffee has been found to have qualities that protect the neurological system (the passage of messages from one part of the body to another), which may explain the effect on MS. Caffeine has also been shown to stop the production of inflammatory cytokines (substance released by cells that promote inflammation). In MS, inflammation occurs when the body's own immune cells attack the nervous system. This leads to nerve damage in important pathways, such as the brain or spinal cord.

This study will be presented at the 67th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Washington, DC, April 18 to 25. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Several sources funded this study, such as the Swedish Medical Research Council and Swedish Research Council for Health. Dr. Mowry said she had received funds from pharmaceutical companies like Teva and Novartis in the past.

Review Date: 
February 25, 2015
Last Updated:
February 27, 2015