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Role of Coffee in Multiple Sclerosis

role of coffee in multiple sclerosis

The role of coffee in multiple sclerosis can be viewed from two perspectives: its ability to prevent or decrease risk of the disease and its impact on individuals who already have MS. Since a new study has addressed the former scenario, it seems like a good time to look at the effect of coffee on both sides of the question.


Coffee and MS prevention
Individuals from two different study groups—one in the United States and one from Sweden—provided the data for the report. Overall, the coffee drinking habits of about 5,600 adults were evaluated, nearly 2,200 with multiple sclerosis and 3,400 without the disease.

The authors found that

  • Among the US participants, those who regularly drank at least four cups of coffee daily were one third less likely to develop MS than their peers who did not drink coffee
  • Among the Swedish participants, those who drank six or more cups of coffee daily were one third less likely to develop MS. (Note: Swedish coffee cups are smaller than US cups, so the results are consistent.)
  • The authors took other factors into consideration, such as smoking, vitamin D levels, and age

The findings of this study do not prove that coffee has an ability to prevent or fight multiple sclerosis. According to Dr. Ellen Mowry, the study’s lead researcher and an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University, the authors cannot make any recommendations regarding coffee consumption until it can be proven that coffee or some of its components are beneficial.

Coffee does have the results of other research on its side, however. Some studies show that coffee and caffeine may protect brain cells in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and it also may reduce the risk of diabetes.

Perhaps what is most useful about this study is that it may lead researchers to new ways to treat the disease. According to Nicholas LaRocca, vice president of health care delivery and policy research for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, “If we can identify it [the mechanism behind why drinking lots of coffee lowers MS risk], that could open up new targets for therapies to slow the progression of MS.”

Coffee and multiple sclerosis

So what about the role of coffee in people who already have multiple sclerosis? Should coffee be in your mug every morning if you have MS?

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Coffee, and specifically caffeine, has anti-inflammatory properties, which suggests it may be a wise beverage choice for people who have multiple sclerosis. However, caffeine also has negative effects, including a tendency to cause sleeplessness, heartburn, and heart palpitations in some individuals, so coffee consumption is a highly individual choice.

On a positive note, several research papers have indicated that coffee can be beneficial for people who have multiple sclerosis. For example, in the European Journal of Neurology, investigators evaluated the use of alcoholic beverages, caffeinated drinks, fish, and cigarette smoking as it related to progression of disability in relapsing onset and progressive onset multiple sclerosis.

Based on an analysis of data from 1,372 people with multiple sclerosis, cigarette smoking was associated with an increased risk for progressive disability while regular consumption of coffee, alcohol, and fish was associated with a decreased risk in relapsing MS, but not in progressive onset MS. (Note: Not all studies are favorable concerning alcohol and MS.)

In a new report entitled “Nutrition Facts in Multiple Sclerosis,” the authors take a comprehensive look at various dietary factors in MS. They point out that “All polyphenols—which are present in vegetables, cereals, legumes, spices, herbs, fruits, wine, fruit juices, tea, and coffee—have anti-inflammatory, immune-modulatory, anti-angiogenic, and antiviral properties.” Thus coffee can be part of an anti-inflammatory diet for multiple sclerosis.

Coffee may have several roles in multiple sclerosis. It may play a part in prevention of the disease, and information researchers can glean from this line in inquiry may help in the development of new treatments. For those who have multiple sclerosis, coffee may serve an anti-inflammatory function.

Also read about alternative treatments for multiple sclerosis

D’hooghe MB et al. Alcohol, coffee, fish, smoking and disease progression in multiple sclerosis. European Journal of Neurology 2012 Apr; 19(4): 616-24
Lang R et al. Bioappearance and pharmacokinetics of bioactives upon coffee consumption. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 2013 Oct; 405(26): 8487-503
Ricco P, Rossano R. Nutrition facts in multiple sclerosis. ASN Neuro 2015 Feb 18: 7(1)

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