Hyperbole? Maybe. But maybe not so much, as researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have discovered.
Examining health data from over 200,000 health professionals, the researchers found that the risk of suicide for adults who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee per day was about half that of those who drank decaffeinated coffee or very little or no coffee.
“Caffeine not only stimulates the central nervous system but may act as a mild antidepressant by boosting production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline,” reported the Harvard Gazette. “This could explain the lower risk of depression among coffee drinkers that had been found in past epidemiological studies.”
The study, which was published earlier this month in the World Journal of Biological Psychology, looked at data from three large U.S. studies. Because such a large cohort was included, researchers are confident in their results.
“These results from three large cohorts support an association between caffeine consumption and lower risk of suicide,” researchers reported.
Frankly, none of this is surprising to me. I’ve been self-medicating with coffee for a long, long time. I didn’t realize I was using it to self-medicate until fairly recently, but that doesn’t change what I was doing. I was diagnosed with clinical depression at age 16, and since then I’ve been struggling to manage it. I manage it with prescription medication, with therapy, with exercise, with attempting not to get too stressed out, and also, with coffee.
Because coffee is a stimulant, it also helps with my ADHD. I also have anxiety, which shouldn’t be helped by coffee, but the thing is that when my ADHD is really out of control, that ratchets up my anxiety. So ultimately, I’m better on coffee than not on it. I know that I’m both emotionally and physically addicted to it, but I don’t care. There is so much really, really serious addiction in my family tree that I’m totally okay with just being addicted to coffee. (Because yay! I’ts not heroin!)
It’s important to note that the Harvard researchers didn’t recommend that depressed adults increase caffeine consumption, and why: because most individuals adjust their caffeine intake to an optimal level for them. In other words, you’re already doing it right. (ZOMG best researchers ever.) They also pointed out that increasing caffeine consumption can result in unpleasant side effects.
“Overall, our results suggest that there is little further benefit for consumption above two to three cups/day or 400 mg of caffeine/day,” the researchers said.
It’s also probably not the best choice for kids, because caffeine isn’t well-studied in kids, especially kids with mental health issues. There are also a host of health problems that can occur when kids have too much caffeine, notes kidshealth.org.
I have to say, I love research that results in immediate, tangible benefits. Another report published this month explained that researchers have gotten a better look at a protein molecule in the brain that affects how we respond to stress. (See: I Haz a Sad: Media’s Coverage of Depression ‘Misery Molecule’ Is Somewhat Inaccurate.) Great stuff, and will help scientists design better medicines, but it will be years before we really see usable results from that.
But I can go get my third cup of coffee right now.
(via: CBS News)
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