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There’s nothing like cup of hot steaming coffee to rejuvenate you after a long tiring day at work. Scientists have always known about the property of caffeine to stimulate the central nervous system.

Increased Coffee Consumption is Associated with a Reduction in the Risk of Depression

Very few studies have been carried out to establish any relationship between coffee and caffeine consumption and relief from depression. A new research, which has been published in the journal “Archives of Internal Medicine”, has found that increased coffee consumption by women is associated with a reduction in the risk of depression.

The study was led by Alberto Ascherio of Harvard School of Public Health. It covered more than 50,000 women whose average age was 63 years. None of the woman showed any signs of depression in 1996 which was considered as the baseline year in the study. They were asked questions pertaining to their coffee habits, like the number of cups of coffee they drank daily. The period from May 1, 1980 to April 1, 2004 was covered to measure the average coffee consumption by these women. The researchers incorporated a two year latency period between the time when they measured caffeine consumption and the time when they assessed the participants for signs of depression. This was done to ensure that the researchers did not include those women in the study who did not consume coffee regularly as they were too depressed.

The researchers divided the women into five groups depending up on their coffee consumption. They found that the women in the group consuming the highest amount of coffee were 20% less likely to develop depression than the women in the lowest coffee consuming group. This means that coffee consumption of more than four cups per day is associated with a 20 percent less chance of developing depression.

Drinking a lot of Coffee may Protect You against Parkinson’s Disease

It was seen in the study that apart from coffee, these results were applicable for all caffeinated soft drinks, and chocolates which contain caffeine. However decaffeinated coffee did not seem to protect against depression.

80% of the people around the world consume caffeine in the form of coffee. Men and women around the world drink coffee to uplift their mood and boost their spirits. However, this is the short term effect of consuming coffee. The new study has shown that coffee consumption can also produce long term or chronic effects, like reducing the risk of depression.

There is still some uncertainty regarding the mechanism by which caffeine protects against depression. Animal studies have shown that caffeine protects the brain from some neurotoxins which can harm it. Human studies have concluded that a part of the brain, called as basal ganglia, has many receptors for caffeine. It is the same part of the brain which is instrumental in the development of both depression as well as Parkinson’s disease. According to Dr. Ascherio, caffeine, when taken for a long time in a low dose, probably stimulates these receptors. Thus, one may conclude that drinking a lot of coffee can protect you against Parkinson’s disease.

Another study, which strengthens the belief that caffeine reduces the risk of depression, was carried out in Finland. The researchers in that study found that the incidence of suicide was less among the farmers who consumed coffee on a regular basis.

Therefore, the hypothesis that caffeine has some association with reduction in risk of depression emerges as a clear fact. However, further studies are required to fully comprehend the exact mechanism by which coffee protects against depression.

  • “Coffee linked with lower depression risk in women”, by Julie Steenhuysen, Reuters, published on September 27, 2011, accessed on October 6, 2011
  • “Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among Women”, Michel Lucas, Alberto Ascherio, et al, Archives of Internal Medicine, published on September 26, 2011, accessed on October 6, 2011
  • Photo courtesy of tinfoilraccoon on Flickr: