Tea is an ancient, centuries-old beverage that is consumed by virtually all of the world’s population. Tea is composed of polyphenols, methylxanthine, caffeine, fats, amino acids and other substances. Tea has been thought to reduce cancer risk, prevent heart disease and even aid in weight loss. The flavonoids, caffeine and theanine have been tested in animal models of Parkinson’s disease and have shown protection against cell loss in similar areas of the brain that are affected in the human Parkinson’s patient. In this month’s What’s Hot in PD?, we will examine what is known about tea and Parkinson’s disease.
A recent meta-analysis of all studies on tea and Parkinson’s risk revealed that across 1,418 cases and 4,250 control patients, there was a protective effect of tea drinking on Parkinson’s disease risk. Interestingly, whether you drink one or more cups a day did not impact the risk (1,2,3)
Louis Tan, one of the authors of the Singapore Chinese Health study, reported differential effects of black versus green tea. People in his study who drank at most one cup of black tea a day (but not green tea) decreased their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Caffeine also reduced the risk of Parkinson’s disease. This study lends support to the mounting evidence supporting a caffeine Parkinson’s-related benefit. Interestingly, most black teas have more caffeine than green teas (1,2,3).
What should patients understand about coffee and tea drinking and Parkinson’s disease? Consumption of coffee or tea seems to reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Once you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, no matter how much time you spend in Starbucks, you can no longer alter your risk profile. The cat is out of the bag. Consumption of caffeine in moderate doses does however seem to benefit the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. A nice cup of tea might just be what the Parkinson’s doctor ordered.
You can find out more about our National Medical Director, Dr. Michael S. Okun, by also visiting the Center of Excellence, University of Florida Health Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration. Dr. Okun is also the author of the Amazon #1 Parkinson's Best Seller 10 Secrets to a Happier Life and 10 Breakthrough Therapies for Parkinson's Disease.