Caffeine and Health: Can Coffee Combat Depression?

Caffeine

Research has found that there is a 50 percent decrease in risk of suicide for people who consume caffeine beverages, such as coffee and tea. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, heightening awareness and decreasing fatigue, combatting some side effects of depression. Caffeine may function as a mild anti-depressant by increasing the production of “feel good” neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. A moderate amount of caffeine can speed up the nervous system so as to combat certain symptoms of negative mental health and depression, such as fatigue, poor concentration, low self-esteem, and feelings of hopelessness.

In a study conducted by the  Harvard School of Public Health, the risk of suicide of people who drank two to three cups of caffeinated beverages per day is 50 percent less than those who did not. The study involved around 200,000 women and men and included caffeine intake from coffee, tea, chocolate, and soft drinks. Results showed that there is a correlation between caffeine consumption and positive mental health. However, caffeine consumption should be kept moderate, because drinking too much may actually increase certain symptoms of depression.

Depression has been on the rise as a mental health disease in the United States, but about 90 percent of adults consume caffeine on a daily basis. The studies show a correlation between a moderate amount of caffeine intake and a lower risk of suicide, but it is possible to drink too much. In a previous study conducted in Finland, the results showed that there may be a higher risk of suicide among individuals who drink more than eight to nine cups of coffee per day. Furthermore, the researchers in the previous study examined only completed suicides and not attempted suicides. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, only one in 25 suicide attempts are actually successful.

In another study that researched women with depression and caffeine intake, over 500 women were examined. The results showed that women who drank two to three cups of coffee a day were 15 percent less likely to develop depression than those who drank less than one cup per week. This shows that caffeine, in moderation, may be able to act as a mild-antidepressant. This news may evoke a sense of relief for those who drink caffeine, or who are looking for medicinal alternatives for their depression.

All this aside, so far, the results are unclear whether caffeine intake can actually combat depression and aid an individual’s mental health. It seems from this previous research that drinking a certain amount of caffeine per day can have a positive effect on the central nervous system. However, just like most things, drinking too much caffeine will have the opposite result, leading to a higher risk of suicide.

Aside from coffee and other caffeine products, it is true that consuming certain things will affect the chemicals in one’s brain to combat depression. For example, spinach and mushrooms have also been correlated with a more positive mental outlook on life. Furthermore, regular exercise, going outside, being in the sun, and eating other green vegetables each tend to improve mental health as well as physical health. This is because mental health and physical health often can affect one another.

By Louise Webster

Sources:
Bloomberg
Psych Central
Daily Mail

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