Ahhh, coffee. It’s the elixir of life, the dark sunshine of sleepy mornings, the lifesaving drink that may literally save a life. An extensive Harvard study on 200,000 people over 16 years shows that those who drank between two and four cups of coffee per day had a 50 percent lower chance of committing suicide than those who did not drink coffee. The study, published in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, is the most extensive of its kind to date. In a previous Harvard study two years ago, women who drank coffee were found to have a 15 percent lower risk of depression, but thus far, no other study has shown that drinking coffee cuts suicide risk by 50 percent.
Lead researcher Michel Lucas explained that caffeine itself may be the main factor in coffee’s protective action: “Unlike previous investigations, we were able to assess association of consumption of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, and we identify caffeine as the most likely candidate of any putative protective effect of coffee,” he said.
The caffeine in coffee is particularly helpful, Lucas says, because it is more concentrated in coffee than in other beverages such as soda or tea. And, caffeine affects certain brain neurotransmitters that are responsible for mood elevation and emotion regulation. This could account for the lower depression rates found in the previous study as well. Brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline rise upon the intake of caffeine, and these are the same “feel good” chemicals created by ingestion of certain antidepressants.
While studies about the risks versus the benefits of coffee consumption can tend to conflict in certain instances, evidence proving the health benefits of coffee seems to be on the upswing recently. Coffee consumption has been linked with a lower risk of heart failure, basal cell carcinoma and even the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Most recently, an extract derived from raw or green coffee beans has been touted to promote weight loss. The action is said to take place by forcing the liver to burn more fat as fuel. Studies on green coffee bean extract are limited, though, and seem to have been performed or sponsored mostly by the companies selling the extract.
The suicide study, though, is quite solid, having been done by Harvard and published in a peer-reviewed journal. The fact that previous study findings show lower depression among coffee drinkers also gives the validity of the suicide study a boost. Many people are not surprised to find out that drinking coffee cuts suicide risk by 50 percent because on an unscientific or anecdotal level, they can feel the benefits of that morning cup right away. Coffee provides short-term energy and something to look forward to as a feel-good morning ritual. Many people feel that they are unable to start the day without enjoying a good cup of strong Joe.
Researchers are quick to point out, though, that they do not recommend depressed patients purposely increase their caffeine intake, because the side effects of a sudden large upswing in caffeine could produce unwanted side effects. Moreover, “…there is little further benefit for consumption above two to three cups/day or 400 mg of caffeine/day,” researchers said.
By: Rebecca Savastio
Source: Huffington Post