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Caffeine may ward off Parkinson's

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5:25pm, August 10, 2004

From New Orleans, at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience

Call it Starbucks science. Two new studies provide a potential explanation for how coffee may protect the brain from the ravages of Parkinson's disease, an illness that produces speech and coordination difficulties.

Hints that coffee has some protective value against the disease, which kills nerve cells that make the brain chemical dopamine, emerged in several recent epidemiological studies. In the latest one, reported in the Nov. 14 Neurology, researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., found that heavy coffee drinkers were less likely to suffer the disorder than moderate coffee drinkers were. In general, those who drank coffee but did develop Parkinson's had later-than-average onset of the disease.

While some scientists hypothesize that caffeine safeguards brain cells, others, including the Mayo investigators, express skepticism that coffee itself wards off Parkin

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