Study finds coffee has benefits for men with Lou Gehrig’s disease

A new study led by York University researchers finds that coffee may be beneficial for men with Lou Gehrig’s disease – but for women, caffeine may have the opposite effect.

Researchers from York’s Faculty of Health and McMaster University investigated the antioxidant effects of coffee, caffeine and chlorogenic acid on the disease, which is also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). They measured levels of oxidative stress, antioxidant enzyme protein content and cell death in male and female mice models of ALS. 

Right: Researchers found that coffee may have benefits for male ALS patients

In females, caffeine reduced motor performance by as much as 20 per cent, decreased antioxidant enzymes by as much as 48 per cent, and increased cell death by as much as 74 per cent.

Males however, experienced a significant increase in antioxidants, along with decreased markers of cell death and oxidative stress, in response to coffee, caffeine and chlorogenic acid supplementation.

“Extrapolating these results to human ALS patients, women with the disorder should consider restricting their caffeine intake,” says study lead author Rajini Seevaratnam, a graduate student in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science. “However, products containing antioxidants along with caffeine, such as coffee, do not appear harmful, suggesting the harmful effect of caffeine is neutralized by the rich antioxidants.”

For men, coffee and its constituents (caffeine and chlorogenic acid) appear to be beneficial, as they reduce both cell death and oxidative stress, and boost levels of antioxidants.

ALS damages key neurons in the brain and spinal cord, causing progressive paralysis of voluntary muscles. It is typically fatal within two to five years of onset. Though there is no cure for ALS, scientists suspect oxidative stress plays a key role in its development.

Antioxidants – vitamins and nutrients that protect cells from damage – are found in commonly  consumed beverages and foods. Coffee in particular has received attention as a potent dietary antioxidant. It also contains chlorogenic acid, a dietary polyphenol that is beneficial to the immune system.

The study, titled "The effects of coffee, caffeine and chlorogenic acid supplementation on functional, disease and molecular outcome measures in male and female G93A mice, an animal model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)" was supervised by Mazen J. Hamadeh, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, and its new Muscle Health Research Centre. The study was co-authored by Professors Sandeep Raha and Mark Tarnopolsky of the Departments of Pediatrics and Medicine at McMaster University.

They will present their findings at the 122nd annual meeting of the American Physiological Society, part of the Experimental Biology 2009 scientific conference. The meeting will be held April 18 to 22 in New Orleans. For more information, click here