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Bonus for coffee drinkers: lower rates of depression

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I almost always start the day with a cup or two (or three) of coffee. Cream, no sugar. Most of the time, I pour a cup, take a couple of sips, and leave it somewhere while I’m making kids’ breakfasts or packing lunches or trying to persuade my almost 5-year-old son to wear actual clothing to school. By the time I find it again, it’s lukewarm, but I quaff it anyway. Can’t let all that valuable caffeine go to waste now, can I?

According to a new study, coffee can do more than boost our level of alertness. Women who drink caffeinated coffee on a regular basis have a 20 percent lower risk of depression than non-java drinkers, The New York Times reported recently.

Dr. Albert Ascherio, an author of the study and professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, pointed out that too much caffeine can increase anxiety and insomnia and said that more research is needed before we all consider our Starbucks cards medically necessary.

The study, which was published earlier this week in The Archives of Internal Medicine, took a look at detailed information from 51,000 women about their caffeine intake, depression risk factors, weight, hormone-replacement use, exercise levels, and other health factors. Researchers found that the chance of depression fell with each cup of coffee consumed.

“We know that caffeine enters the brain and activates the release of different neurotransmitters that are related to mood, like dopamine and serotonin,” Dr. Ascherio told the New York Times. “That may explain the shorter-term effects on mood. But the long-term mechanisms of caffeine intake on mood we don’t really know.”

Tea, soda, decaf, and even chocolate didn’t cut it—apparently, they just don’t have enough caffeine to equal the amount found in about four cups of coffee, which is what can help keep depression at bay, researchers say.

In honor of National Coffee Day (September 29), here are some other fun facts about that heavenly elixir so many busy moms can’t live without (hat tip to Livescience.com):

  • 65 percent of the people in the United States who drink coffee regularly have about 13 cups of the stuff each week. (Average cup size: 9 ounces.)
  • Most people (68 percent) have their first cup within an hour of waking up.
  • About 57 percent of coffee drinkers like their java on the sweet side, but 35 percent drink it plain and black.
  • Hawaii and Puerto Rico are the only places where coffee grows in North America.
  • Seattle has 35 coffee shops for every 100,000 people—the highest per-capita rate in the U.S.

Which do you prefer, coffee or tea (or something else?) Does the link to preventing depression make you think about having an extra cup?



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2 comments so far...

  • I was thinking about having another cup anyway, LOL!

    I drink a lot of coffee, and I have been on a health kick or two, so I love finding little research tidbits about how coffee is good for us. Really, over the past 10 years or so, I’ve seen many articles about what’s good about coffee, and I can’t remember any about why it’s bad. Still wondering how that propaganda got spread so convincingly in the past.

    I usually drink mine like this. I use Mount Hagen instant organic coffee. One heaping teaspoon of coffee, half a cup of water, half a cup or organic fat-free milk. This is one of the reasons I like working at home - I don’t like the coffee anywhere else (unless you count pumpkin spice lattes, which aren’t sustainable over the long term).

    SKL  |  September 29th, 2011 at 6:28 pm

  • i was excited about this article when i saw it as i often get accused of being ‘too’ happy. maybe i can blame coffee? but no, i generally like to hide the flavor of coffee under lots of milk and sugar (mocha or caramel, preferably!)
    now tea… aahh hot, iced, whatever good black tea is delicious straight up! why does it just seem more difficult to come by? though i dont think i could drink 4 cups of either in a day. even though both my parents can go through a pot of coffee a day… somehow i escaped that need! (i dont drink soda either - yuck!)

    also - thank you for using the wourd ‘quaff’ in this post! i love that word, you made me smile :)

    kate  |  September 30th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

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