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Smoking and Caffeine May Protect Against Parkinson's Disease

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. -- In families affected by Parkinson's disease,
the people who smoked cigarettes and drank a lot of coffee were
less likely to develop the disease, say researchers at Duke
University Medical Center.

The findings suggest that both genetic and environmental
factors may influence the development of Parkinson's, a
progressive neurodegenerative disease marked by trembling of
the arms and legs, stiffness and rigidity of the muscles and
slowness of movement.

Previous studies have suggested that smokers and coffee
drinkers have a lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease.
However, this is the first study to look specifically at
cigarette smoking and caffeine consumption within families
affected by the disease, the researchers said.

Smoking cigarettes and consuming copious amounts of caffeine
carry their own risks and should not be taken up in an attempt
to avoid developing Parkinson's disease, cautions study
investigator Burton L. Scott, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor
of medicine.

The findings were published in the April 2007 issue of the
journal Archives of Neurology. The research was funded by the
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The researchers studied the associations between smoking,
caffeine and Parkinson's disease in 356 Parkinson's disease
patients and 317 family members without the disease.

Individuals with Parkinson's disease were half as likely to
report ever smoking and a third as likely to report current
smoking compared with unaffected relatives, the researchers
found.

Individuals with Parkinson's disease were also less likely
to drink large amounts of coffee, the researchers found.

The biological mechanisms through which smoking and caffeine
might work in individuals at risk of Parkinson's disease are
still not clear, said study co-investigator Mark A. Stacy,
M.D., associate professor of medicine and director of the Duke
Movement Disorders Center.

"Smoking and caffeine may modify underlying genetic
susceptibilities that exist in families with Parkinson's
disease, but further work is needed to see how this interaction
ultimately plays out," Stacy said.

Other researchers participating in the study were Dana B.
Hancock, Jeffrey M. Stajich and Rita Jewett of Duke and Eden R.
Martin, Jeffery M. Vance and William K. Scott of the University
of Miami.

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