A report from Harvard University on long term followup of 50,739 female Registered Nurses in the Nurse’s Health Study suggests that caffeine, particularly caffeinated coffee, reduces the risk of developing chronic depression by 15% over a ten year follow up. This effect was seen in women who drank 2-3 cups of coffee daily. Drinking four or more cups a day reduced the risk of depression by 20%! Other sources of caffeine (tea, sodas, chocolate, caffeinated drinks) were also evaluated but coffee was by far the most common source of consumed caffeine. When decaffeinated coffee was analyzed, the data showed no protective effect on the development of depression, suggesting that caffeine was the active ingredient.
The Prescription Perspective:
This is yet another report emphasizing the benefits of moderate coffee and caffeine consumption. Caffeine is a mild central nervous system stimulant which increases alertness. Benefits of caffeine, and caffeinated coffee in particular, include a lower incidence of Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and dementia along with a lower incidence of certain types of cancer, particularly colon cancer, cardiac conditions and stroke, reduced frequency and intensity of asthma attacks and fewer gallstones. Although there are clearly other chemicals in coffee, many of which are not yet known to science, it now appears that caffeine is most likely the primary ingredient responsible for these beneficial effects. Coffee is rapidly moving from the list of foods to be limited to a ‘healthy’ dietary item!