One of the vices in my life is coffee. Every day I treasure my 2 cups of coffee. Good coffee I might add. Usually cappuccinos or espressos. Sometimes macchiatos. Flip through my back pages and you are likely to find many of the pages stained and tinted by this glorious brew. There’s probably enough material in there for my first book but, for today, I thought I’d serve up a few espresso-size servings of thoughts related to recent pieces about coffee and it’s relationship with Parkinson’s Disease.
First, let me set the table by taking you back to the late seventies, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. For several years, I practically lived in the student centre, Hamilton Hall; working for the radio station, an information office, an arts newspaper, student politics, amongst others. Remarkably, for a student centre, there was no cafe per se but, fortunately, a neighbouring building, University Hall, housed a graduate student coffee shop that served up decent coffee for a ridiculously low price of something like 32 cents a cup. By my calculations, I consumed roughly 20 cups of coffee a day. This started a habit that continued beyond school and into my working life though, admittedly, my work schedule meant there wasn’t enough time in the day for that much coffee. I probably reduced it to 6-8 cups/day.
Fast forward to the Year 2000 and my puzzling diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Since little was known about the cause of Parkinson’s, I was quick to seek out more information on what may have factored into my situation. One of the most startling findings was several research studies suggesting that caffeine had a positive impact on building up the body’s defenses against conditions like Parkinson’s. How could this be? Surely, consuming as much coffee as I had should have rendered me immune!
Now, 15 years later, we are really no better off in our understanding of what causes Parkinson’s. Nor is it definitive that caffeine has beneficial compounds that fend off Parkinson’s. Yet, in a recent article in the New York Times “More Consensus on Coffee’s Benefits Than You Might Think” (May 11/15), author Aaron E. Carroll, conducts a comprehensive review of research in this area and makes several conclusions. First, while many worry that caffeine may be hurting them, there’s almost no evidence for that at all. In fact, there is a suggestion that it could be good for your health and, most notably, offers a potential protective effect against neurological diseases life Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. He urges more double-blind research to confirm these findings.
If there was some suggestion that caffeine in coffee might have protective effects, then this next story was inevitable. Someone would come up with a product that honed in on the essential chemical compound therein and market it. Sure enough, this week I received news on a new product that is made from “the bioactive molecules isolated from coffee”. Now you don’t need to go through the “trouble” of drinking coffee in voluminous quantities, you can buy Nerium’s EHT which “keeps neural connections strong, leading to more robust synaptic connections. The result – increased brain performance for a healthy, focused mind”. Mmmm, sounds delicious! Check it out at http://www.neriumeht.com.
Finally, this last story left a bitter taste in my mouth. In the Netherlands, the national Parkinson’s organisation, Parkinson Vereniging, have recently set up a number of “Parkinson’s Cafes”. Here, people with Parkinson’s gather to have to do what everyone else does at their neighbourhood cafe – socialize, read, catch-up on work and enjoy their favourite cuppa. These Parkinson’s cafes are suppose to ” help overcome the sense of isolation that often affects people with PD”. While the intent is honourable, frankly, it’s not for me. When I go out to a cafe, I’m looking for good coffee, good company and conversation, as well as an appealing ambiance. I’m not going to hang with a bunch of folks with PD. That’s not to say that there isn’t a time and place for such – some activities I’m involved in such as Dancing with Parkinson’s do in fact bring together people with Parkinson’s – in this case, to share dance and a coffee/tea social afterwards. As I’ve noted before, this combination has been very helpful for me. But a cafe for people with PD? I’ll pass on that, thanks! Should your tastes be different, you can find out more about these Dutch cafes here.
Cleanse Your Palate
My favourite cafes all have a pitcher of water available to cleanse your palate after enjoying your beverage. It’s hard for me to extend the same courtesy on my blog! Let me substitute with my gratitude for your patronage of this site and invite you to visit again. Better yet, visit in person and we’ll share a cuppa together! I’m working on my crema and the perfect shot and I’d love the practise! Cheers!