Strong epidemiologic evidence suggests that smokers and coffee drinkers have a lower risk of Parkinson's disease (PD). The explanation for this finding is still unknown, and the discussion has focused on two main hypotheses. The first suggests that PD patients have premorbid personality traits associated with dislike for coffee-drinking and smoking. The second posits that caffeine and nicotine are neuroprotective. We propose an alternative third hypothesis, in which both cigarette and coffee consumption change the composition of the microbiota in the gut in a way that mitigates intestinal inflammation. This, in turn, would lead to less misfolding of the protein alpha-synuclein in enteric nerves, reducing the risk of PD by minimizing propagation of the protein aggregates to the central nervous system, where they otherwise can induce neurodegeneration.
Keywords: Parkinson's disease; enteric nervous system; nicrobiota.
© 2014 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.