Coffee certainly has its perks. But what if it could help fight two very progressive and incurable diseases associated with brain degeneration?

Rutgers scientists have been interested in finding treatments that can help slow down or even stop Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia.  Existing treatments for Parkinson's only help with symptoms such as motor skills, tremors and slow movement. But there is nothing for the progressive brain degeneration.

Dr. Maral Mouradian, director of the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Institute for Neurological Therapeutics, said research has shown that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

The Rutgers study focused on a fatty acid derivative of the neurotransmitter serotonin called EHT. Testing on mice found that this compound, coupled with caffeine, protected their brains against an abnormal protein accumulation associated with Parkinson's and dementia.

Mice were given a low dose of each compound daily for six months. Mouradian said the compounds were ineffective separately. But given together, the compounds were effective in also protecting brain cells and also the mice were able to do motor functions better. They were able to stay on the treadmills longer and their memories improved.

The next step is to know how much of each of these compounds is needed in people with Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia to be effective.

EHT is found in various types of coffee but the amount varies, so it's important to figure out the amount and ratio between EHT and caffeine to be effective in humans.

She said the test for humans is in the planning stages and could take years.

"You don't want to drink too much coffee in order to get enough of these compounds because you may end up over-caffeinating yourself. We don't want to do that because too much caffeine can have negative health consequences," said Mouradian.

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