Does your world appear completely unbearable until you’ve had that first cup of coffee in the morning? Do you need a java jolt just to deal with your day? You may actually need that caffeine to ward off the blues. Researchers are now acknowledging that the risk of depression appears to decrease for women with increasing consumption of caffeinated coffee.
According to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, caffeine is the most frequently used central nervous system stimulant in the world, and approximately 80 percent of consumption is in the form of coffee.
Previous research, including one prospective study among men, has suggested an association between coffee consumption and depression risk. Depression is a chronic and recurrent condition that affects twice as many women as men, including approximately one of every five U.S. women during their lifetime.
Michel Lucas, Ph.D., R.D., from the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues sought to examine whether, in women, consumption of caffeine or certain caffeinated beverages is associated with the risk of depression. They studied 50,739 U.S. women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study. Participants, who had a mean (average) age of 63 and had no depression at the start of the study, were followed for 10 years.
Researchers measured caffeine consumption through questionnaires focusing on how frequently the subjects consumed caffeinated and non-caffeinated coffee, non-herbal tea, 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. The authors defined depression as reporting a new diagnosis of clinical depression and beginning regular use of antidepressants in the previous two years.
During the 10-year follow-up period, researchers identified 2,607 new cases of depression. When compared with women who consumed one cup of caffeinated coffee or less per week, those who consumed two to three cups per day had a 15 percent decrease in relative risk for depression, and those consuming four cups or more per day had a 20 percent decrease in relative risk. Compared with women in the lowest (less than 100 milligrams per day) categories of caffeine consumption, those in the highest category (550 mg per day or more) had a 20 percent decrease in relative risk of depression. No association was found between intake of decaffeinated coffee and depression risk.
The authors concluded that the risk of depression decreased in a dose-dependent manner with increasing consumption of caffeinated coffee. They noted that this study “cannot prove that caffeine or caffeinated coffee reduces the risk of depression but only suggests the possibility of such a protective effect.”
So go ahead, enjoy a cup now and then.