Parkinson’s Disease – Another Example of the LDS Church failing its Members

Imagine the following scenario:
The federal government compiles statistics over a ten year period showing automobile fatalities. Most states have similar statistics, all within a certain range, except for one state. It stands out with a much higher incidence of deaths. The governor is stunned and charges the legislature to do something to reduce this appalling statistic. They respond by making drivers education classes mandatory for all high school students. They require that every four years, every driver must again pass a written test and a road test to show competence. Intersections are made safer, more guard rails installed, roads repaired, extra signs installed.
A year later the governor commissions a new state study of auto fatalities for the preceding twelve months. He finds fatalities have decreased 5%, still leaving his state far in the lead on this terrible statistic.

And then someone says: “Hey, maybe we should start using seat belts.”

That’s the analogy for introducing today’s post. A few days ago I wrote about how the state of Utah has the highest rate of Alzheimer’s disease in the nation and the government is acting to turn that around. That blog post also told how recent studies have shown drinking coffee on a regular basis can help protect people from this terrible disease. The evidence strongly shows that if the LDS church were to end its prohibition against drinking coffee the Alzheimer’s rates would decrease to become more in line with the rest of the nation.

While doing this research on coffee and Alzheimer’s, I also noticed coffee has been found to be effective in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease. And that made me curious as to the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease in Utah. A short time ago I ran across this article from the Deseret News, dated March 1, 2013:

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers unanimously supported the creation of a Parkinson’s disease registry in the state Friday.

HCR8 calls for the creation of a registry in order to allow researchers an opportunity to study the impact and prevalence of the disease, which is a brain disorder that leads to difficulty with movement and coordination.

Parkinson’s most often develops after age 50 and has been found to affect more than twice as many people in Utah than is average across the nation, according to the resolution sponsor, Rep. Stewart Barlow, R-Fruit Heights.

Lets look at that in terms of actual numbers. Statistics per the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation ( say about 60,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year. At the end of 2014, the estimated population of the United States was about 319 million. Sixty thousand affected means 0.019% of the population will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year.

Based on Census bureau projections for 2014 (based on the 2010 census) Utah and Arkansas have almost the same population.
And according to LDS statistics, ( out of a total population, o.98 % of the population of Arkansas is LDS. At less than 1%, the church population in Arkansas should have almost no impact on the statistics.

So, with a population of 2,966,639, (using the national rate of 0.019%) there will be about 563 new cases of Parkinson’s diagnosed in Arkansas in the coming year.

With a population of 2,942,902, (considering, per Deseret New article above, Utah’s rate is more than double the national rate) there will at least 1118 new cases of Parkinson’s diagnosed in Utah in the coming year.

So, could drinking coffee reduce this frightening statistic as well?

Here are the links to two medical articles showing how coffee can help prevent Parkinson’s disease.

The above medical study shows strong evidence that cigarette smokers and coffee drinkers have a significantly lower risk of contracting Parkinson’s disease. I’m not in favor of taking up smoking in an effort to prevent Parkinson’s disease. Smoking carries many health risks of its own. But taking up the habit of drinking coffee seems like a good idea. According to this study, coffee drinker’s have a 31% lower risk of contracting Parkinson’s disease!

The above medical study #2 also shows that drinking coffee is associated with a lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease. The results were dramatic:
One to four cups of coffee was shown to reduce the rate of Parkinson’s in men by 45%.
Five or more cups of coffee was shown to reduce the incidence of Parkinson’s in men by 59%.
One to four cups was shown to reduce the incidence of Parkinson’s in women by 47%.
Five or more cups was shown to reduce the incidence of Parkinson’s in women by 60%!

This reduction would bring Utah’s numbers more in line with the rest of the nation.

I realize this personal example is just anecdotal evidence, but personally I have known two people who have contracted Parkinson’s disease and died . Both were active members of the LDS church and did not drink coffee.

For those unfamiliar with Parkinson’s disease, What are the symptoms? How serious is it?

Parkinson’s disease stages include:

Stage one: During this initial phase of the disease, a patient usually experiences mild symptoms. These symptoms may inconvenience the day-to-day tasks the patient would otherwise complete with ease. Typically these symptoms will include the presence of tremors or experiencing shaking in one of the limbs. Also during stage one, friends and family can usually detect changes in the Parkinson’s patient including poor posture, loss of balance, and abnormal facial expressions.

Stage two: In the second stage of Parkinson’s disease, the patients symptoms are bilateral, affecting both limbs and both sides of the body. The patient usually encounters problems walking or maintaining balance, and the inability to complete normal physical tasks becomes more apparent.

Stage three: Stage three symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be rather severe and include the inability to walk straight or to stand. There is a noticeable slowing of physical movements in stage three.

Stage four: This stage of the disease is accompanied by severe symptoms of Parkinson’s. Walking may still occur, but it is often limited and rigidity and bradykinesia are often visible. During this stage, most patients are unable to complete day-to-day tasks, and usually cannot live on their own. The tremors or shakiness that take over during the earlier stages however, may lessen or become non-existent for unknown reasons during this time.

Stage five: The last or final stage of Parkinson’s disease usually takes over the patients physical movements. The patient is usually unable to take care of himself or herself and may not be able to stand or walk during this stage. A patient at stage five usually requires constant one-on-one nursing care.

Just as with Alzheimer’s, life long plans are radically altered for both the sufferer and family members who provide care and support. Enormous costs are incurred.
Parkinson’s itself does not cause death. Some sufferers live in misery for years. One common cause of death for those with Parkinson’s is aspiration pneumonia. There is a growing inability to easily control muscles that regulate coordinated breathing and swallowing. This can lead to aspiration.

The LDS doctrine that prohibits the drinking of coffee is found in the church scriptures, called the Doctrine and Covenants.  Here are the last four verses, of Section 89, 18-21(The Word of Wisdom):

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

These are lofty, feel good words; well, except for that last verse. I find it interesting that originally The Word of Wisdom was a recommendation, not a commandment, and yet the last verse promises a punishment for not following it. However, obeying the Word of Wisdom is now a requirement for going to the church temples. And if one does not stay worthy to go to the temple, they are not eligible for many of the eternal blessings the church promises the faithful.

Thus, there is much motivation for following this doctrine, a major part of which forbids the drinking of coffee.

Just as it has been shown that drinking coffee regularly can dramatically reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, the above information shows that drinking coffee regularly can dramatically reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Changing this one personal habit appears to be the single most important thing an individual can do to avoid this terrible disease. Expensive legislation will never have this much impact.

By repealing the prohibition against coffee, the church will save the lives of hundreds of people every year.  Drinking coffee won’t cure Parkinson’s. It won’t completely stop people from getting it. But it’s the “seat belt”, a very low cost preventative measure that helps protect everyone who drinks it.
Besides reducing suffering, there will be much less strain on families who’ve had to cope with these diseases. Care costs and medical costs will be reduced by millions of dollars a year.

Is there any downside for the church repealing the prohibition against coffee? Just one; they would have to admit this canonized doctrine was wrong. All the conference talks exhorting the faithful to following this practice would be seen to be in error. The illusion of infallibility would take another hit. Members would likely be even less likely to follow “the brethren” without question. Families whose faithful members had died of this terrible disease may feel betrayed.

Or, the church could stand fast, refusing to acknowledge the situation, pride and vanity obscuring error. The church is big on covenants. Make a promise to the Lord and he will give a blessing back. But if blessings don’t seem to be forthcoming for the faithful, the church will often remind members that many promised blessings are for the next life.  However, The Word of Wisdom is somewhat unique in that it promises blessings for this life.

Some will avoid coffee and won’t contract either of these dread diseases. They will declare the word of the Lord has been fulfilled and they have been blessed.

But what of the faithful who suffer these diseases?
They also made the covenant and kept it.
They’ve demonstrated faithful, unwavering obedience over the course of their lives.
They have endured to the end.

Where are their blessings promised by The Word of Wisdom?
Sadly, they’ve put their absolute trust in men who have no power to either grant blessings or speak to God on another’s behalf.

There is no blessing here.




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