As many as 16 million people are diagnosed with depression each year, with an unbalanced distribution of more women being diagnosed than men. However, studies show that coffee improves depression in women.
The reasons are not clear why but may be attributed to hormonal changes that occur during menstruation, pregnancy and more.
Amazingly, everyone’s favorite beverage, good old 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 Medicinei (Lucas et al. 2011). The findings of that study include:
This study followed over 50,000 women of average age 63, all free of depression at the study’s inception in 1996. The researchers followed study subject’s consumption patterns over a period of ten years of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, along with chocolate consumption.
Upon analysis of results after its closure, 2,607 cases of depression were diagnosed, with women consuming one or fewer cups of coffee per week having the higher risk of depression.
The women that consumed the highest amount of coffee (four or more cups per day) had the lowest risk.
While the results are intriguing, and the sample size is relatively large, the fact is that using a cross-section of women who were all nurses may not reflect society as a whole, although similar studies have been conducted on men as well with corresponding results.
However, coffee’s benefits on mood do not end there. A prospective study initiated in 1980 and lasting for a period of ten years also reflected a reduced rate of suicide in women who consume more coffee.
This study followed a total of 86,626 female nurses and was published in the Archives of Internal Medicineii (Kawachi et al. 1996).
There were 56 cases of suicide upon completion of the study, with each person being studied on average for 9.6 years. The results indicated a strong inverse relationship between coffee consumption and suicide risk, being lowest in women who consume 2-4 or more cups per day.
In large part, coffee’s beneficial effects on mood and depression are attributed to caffeine’s ability to easily enter the brain and modify neurotransmitter levels here.
While caffeine primarily 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 feelings, making just the break of dawn an experience.
This is extremely beneficial in 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 is able to relieve depression, boosts 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 neurotransmitters result is favorable benefits.
Coffee and caffeine consumption has beneficial effects on preventing or reducing the risk of depression significantly in at-risk populations.
In fact, coffee improves depression in women and coupled with the fact that the risk of suicide is also reduced inversely to coffee consumption, it makes it a no-brainer to consume more. Aim for three cups per day, to experience its numerous benefits!