Caffeine Consumption and Depression

Many people associate caffeine with nervousness and the development of anxiety. In the short term, this may be the case, and those with anxiety are advised to avoid excessive intakes of caffeine, particularly from coffee, unless habituated to the intake. However, long term caffeine and coffee consumption does not show an association with depression and may actually be protective of depressed mood. A number of studies have looked at the association between caffeine consumption and depression and coffee consumption and depression. One group of researchers performed a meta-analysis on the association between coffee and caffeine consumption with depression and found that both coffee and caffeine were significantly protective of depression. In another study, a similar association was found for consumption of coffee and caffeine with a reduced risk of depression in women. In yet another study, coffee was significantly associated with a reduced risk of depression, but no association was found for tea.

caffeine coffee depression anxiety

Coffee and caffeine may be protective of depression for different reasons. Coffee contains a number of phytochemicals such as chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, and these may confer antioxidant protection on the brain, thus protecting the central nervous system from the negative effects of stress. Caffeine is also able to affect the brain, as it can increase the release of catecholamine neurotransmitters. This may also protect the brain from the negative effects of stress and therefore be protective of depression. However caffeine consumption does often increase anxiety in sensitive individuals and so this factor must be taken into account when consuming caffeinated beverages.

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Wang, L., Shen, X., Wu, Y., & Zhang, D. 2016. Coffee and caffeine consumption and depression: A meta-analysis of observational studies. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 50(3): 228-242
Lucas, M., Mirzaei, F., Pan, A., Okereke, O. I., Willett, W. C., O’Reilly, É. J., Koenen, K. and Ascherio, A. 2011. Coffee, caffeine, and risk of depression among women. Archives of Internal Medicine. 171(17): 1571-1578
Ruusunen, A., Lehto, S. M., Tolmunen, T., Mursu, J., Kaplan, G. A. and Voutilainen, S. 2010. Coffee, tea and caffeine intake and the risk of severe depression in middle-aged Finnish men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Public Health Nutrition. 13(8): 1215-1220

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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