People wouldn’t drink so much coffee if it didn’t make them feel good, that’s for sure. Sure, over time we grow to love and crave the taste of it but for the most part, we are reliant on it for energy and alertness to start the day. You grow dependent on that effect coffee has on you and voila, next thing you know you can’t go a day without it. With all that in mind, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that new research suggests coffee can lower a woman’s risk of depression.
In 2011, researchers pointed out that caffeine is the most widely used central nervous system stimulant in the world, and about 80 percent of that caffeine is consumed as coffee. But interestingly enough, even though it’s such a ubiquitous stimulant, little research had been done to analyze the possible relationship coffee may have on depression risks.
Dr Michel Lucas, PhD, RD, Dr Fariba Mirzaei, MD, MPH, ScD, Dr An Pan, PhD, Dr Olivia I. Okereke, MD, SM, Dr Walter C Willett, MD, DrPH, Dr Éilis J O’Reilly, ScD, Dr Karestan Koenen, PhD, and Dr Alberto Ascherio, MD, DrPH collected data across a sample of over 50,000 American women between 1996 and 2006, all of which were clear of depression symptoms when the study began in 1996. In that 10-year span, 2,607 incident cases of depression were identified in the study. Their questionnaire over that period of time reviewed the consumption habits of coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated), tea (nonherbal), caffeinated soft drinks (sugared or low-calorie colas), caffeine-free soft drinks (sugared or low-calorie caffeine-free colas or other carbonated beverages), and chocolate.
“Compared to women consuming caffeinated coffee less frequently (≤1 cup/wk), multivariate relative risk of depression was 0.85 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.75 to 0.95) for those consuming 2–3 cups/d and 0.80 (95%CI, 0.64 to 0.99; P trend <0.001) for those consuming ≥4 cups/d,” the results read. “Multivariate relative risk for depression was 0.80 (95%CI, 0.68 to 0.95; P trend=0.02) for women in the highest (≥550 mg/d) vs. lowest (<100 mg/d) of the 5 caffeine consumption categories. Decaffeinated coffee was not associated with depression risk.”
Simply put, the researchers found that depression risk decreased as the women in their study consumed more coffee. Previous to this research, the researchers only knew of one study in which coffee’s link to depression was examined. In that case, “reporting a significant inverse association between coffee drinking and depression but no association with tea or other caffeinated beverages,” they wrote. They did, however, note that three cohort studies (two in the United States and one in Finland) showed a strong inverse association between coffee consumption and suicide. Of course, this particular study was significant in part because it focused on women, who have double the risk of diagnosed depression at some point in their lives than men.