Today let’s discuss another possible health benefit from drinking caffeinated coffee. In the past ten years or so, research suggest that coffee drinkers enjoy a lower risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, stoke, and skin and liver cancer.
Now an intriguing study from the Harvard School of Public Health, and published July 2 in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, concludes that coffee drinkers have a significantly lower risk of suicide than non-coffee drinkers.
The Harvard researchers examined data from three long-term health studies which included over 200,000 men and women, all of whom were enrolled in the research for at least 16 years.
The results showed that the people who drank 2 to 3 cups of coffee per day had a 45% lower risk of suicide during the years of the study, and those who drank 4 or more cups per day had a 53% lower risk.
This suggests that coffee might have an anti-depressant effect, which is consistent with a study published in 2011, in JAMA Internal Medicine, which showed that women who drank 2 to 3 cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 15% lesser chance of being diagnosed with depression, and a 20% lower risk for those who drank 4 or more cups per day. De-caffeinated coffee did not seem to give any anti-depressant advantage in these studies.
These studies (since they are “retrospective”) do not prove however that coffee works as an anti-depressant. For a study to show proof, researchers would have to start with a large group of people and have half of them drink coffee over many years, and the other half not drink coffee, then study the rate of depression. This sort of “prospective” study is unlikely to be done.
Still, from the various studies that have been conducted, there is a strong suggestion that something in caffeinated coffee is good for mood improvement. Coffee acts as a stimulant in the short-term, and scientists believe the reason for the longer-term improvement is that some chemical substances in coffee—coffee contains more than a thousand aromatic compounds—act to rebalance neuro-transmitters in the brain, especially dopamine and serotonin. And that is exactly how prescription anti-depressant medications act as well.
So if coffee doesn’t give you side effects like acid reflux, insomnia or jitteriness, you might see how it works on your mood. The data on coffee protecting against dementia and Parkinson’s disease is strong, so it seems that coffee somehow protects nerve cells and their functioning in the brain.
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