Coffee Drinking may confer the side-benefit of lowering the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) in susceptible individuals, according to a meta-analysis of Swedish and American studies to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 67th Annual Meeting to be held April 18-25, 2015 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, and pre-released this week.
Previous research on potential associations between caffeine consumption and MS risk had been inconclusive, but other studies had associated caffeine consumption with reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, indicating that the drug may have neuroprotective qualities.
“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, supporting the idea that the drug may have protective effects for the brain,” explains study lead author Ellen Mowry, MD, MCR, an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore specializing in Multiple Sclerosis research and an American Academy of Neurology member.
For this study, researchers reviewed results of two population-based case-control studies; a Swedish study comparing coffee-drinking habits of 1,629 subjects with MS and 2,807 healthy people, and a Kaiser Permanente Northern California study of 1,159 persons with MS and 1,172 healthy people.
Both of these studies focused on coffee consumption volumes among persons with MS one and five years before MS symptoms onset, and the Swedish study also included caffeine-intake data for 10 years prior to manifestation of MS symptoms. These data were compared to corresponding coffee consumption habits of subjects who did not have MS across the same time intervals. Association of coffee consumption prior to disease onset with odds of MS development was evaluated in multivariate unconditional logistic regression models, adjusted for potential confounding factors, including (but not limited to) age, sex, smoking, body mass index (BMI) and sun exposure habits.
Among the Swedish subjects, coffee consumption was associated with reduced odds of MS compared to subjects who reported no coffee consumption. The Swedish researchers found non coffee drinkers had approximately a one and a half times greater risk of developing MS than did persons who drank at least six cups of coffee daily during the year prior to symptoms onset. Moderate to heavy coffee consumption over the five or 10 years prior to symptoms presentation was shown to be similarly protective.
In the U.S. Kaiser Permanente Northern California study, individuals who were not coffee-drinkers were also found to be roughly one and a half times more likely to develop MS than were persons with daily consumption of four or more cups of coffee during the year before the appearance of MS symptoms.
The researchers conclude that high coffee consumption is associated with reduced odds of MS, noting that caffeine has neuroprotective properties and seems to suppress production of proinflammatory cytokines, which may be mechanisms that explain the observed association between caffeine intake and reduced risk of developing these neurological disorders.
“Caffeine should be studied for its impact on relapses and long-term disability in MS as well,” Dr. Mowry maintains.
The presentation at the AAN’s AGM next month, entitled “Greater Consumption of Coffee is Associated with Reduced Odds of Multiple Sclerosis,” is coauthored by Ellen Mowry, Anna K. Hedstrom, Milena A. Gianfrancesco, Xiaorong Shao, Catherine A. Schaefer, Lisa Barcellos, Tomas Olsson, and Lars Alfredsson.
The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) is an association of more than 28,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals dedicated to promoting top-quality patient-centered neurologic care in treating and managing brain and nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.
The caffeine study was supported by the Swedish Medical Research Council, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg, AFA, and Swedish Brain Foundations, the Swedish Association for Persons with Neurological Disabilities and the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute on Aging.
The American Academy of Neurology
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine