Depression is a very serious disease and is often referred to as the silent killer. It does not necessarily show its symptoms, as it can be easily covered up by a fake smile. But the effects it can have on a person are very serious, in worse case situations leading to the unfortunate suicide of an individual. As many as 15-16 million people are diagnosed with depression each year, with more women being diagnosed than men.
Studies have concluded that the reasons are not entirely clear why, but are probably attributed to hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause.
There is good news. The most popular beverage in the world today, good old-fashioned coffee, can reduce the risk of depression, as was chronicled in a study conducted by the Harvard School Of Public Health and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Lucas et al. 2011).
The findings of that study show:
A Reduced Risk Of Depression By 20%
This study was concluded after the 50,000 women, all of average age 63, and all free of depression at the study’s inception in 1996. The researchers followed the study subject’s consumption patterns over a period of ten years of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, along with chocolate consumption.
When the study was over and upon analysis of results after its conclusion, 2607 cases of depression were identified, with women drinking 1 or fewer cups of coffee per week. These women had the higher risk of depression. The women that drank the highest amount of cups of coffee (4 or more cups per day) had the lowest risk of depression.
While the results are quite interesting, and the sample size was very big, this was a very good indicator that it could reflect society as a whole. Similar studies have been conducted on men as well with corresponding results.
However, coffee’s benefits on the way you feel do not end there. Another study initiated in 1980 and lasting for a period of ten years also reflected a reduced rate of suicide in women who drank more coffee. This study followed a total of over 86,000 female nurses and was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Kawachi et al. 1996).
The results were 56 incidents of suicide upon completion of the study, with each person being studied on average for 9.6 years. The final results indicated a strong inverse relationship between coffee consumption and the risk of suicide, being lowest in women who consumed 2-4 or more cups per day.
Possible Mechanism Of Action
In large part, coffee’s positive effects on mood and depression are attributed to caffeine’s ability to easily enter the brain and modify neurotransmitter levels here. While caffeine mainly acts to block adenosine receptors in the brain, (adenosine acts here to make us sleepy), its benefits on mood are due to effects on other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine.
By promoting transmission of dopamine, caffeine enhances motivation and reward feeling. This is extremely beneficial for people suffering from depression who are not easily motivated or have lost the drive to succeed and achieve something.
On the other hand, by also increasing the transmission of serotonin, caffeine and coffee are able to relieve depression, boost energy levels, and alertness, and can relieve headaches and pain. Depression is related to depletion of one or more of these neurotransmitters, thus modalities to increase transmission of the result is favorable benefits.
Coffee and caffeine consumption has beneficial effects on preventing or reducing the risk of depression significantly in at-risk populations. Coupled with the fact that risk of suicide is also reduced inversely to coffee consumption, it makes it a no-brainer to consume more. Aim for 3 cups per day, to experience its numerous benefits!