Women's health * Healthy living

Coffee may help to prevent depression

Coffee may help to prevent depression Risk reduced by drinking two to three cups a day

Women who drink two or more cups of coffee a day are less likely to get depressed, a study suggests.

Drinking coffee daily reduced a woman's risk of developing depression by 15 per cent, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health found.

Those who drank four or more cups a day cut their risk of depression even further, by a fifth.

Previous research had suggested that coffee drinking may lower the risk of depression in men, but the results were not conclusive.

The researchers decided to investigate this further by looking at coffee consumption and the risk of depression in women, as they are twice as likely as men to develop the condition in their lifetime.

The researchers studied the health of more than 50,000 nurses, average age 63, for nearly 10 years. All the women completed lifestyle questionnaires, which included questions on coffee consumption. None of the women were depressed at the start of the study in 1996.

During the study period, 2607 women developed clinical depression, requiring medication.

Women who drank two to three cups of coffee a day had a 15 per cent decreased risk of developing depression, compared with women who drank one cup of coffee or less per week, the study found.

Those who drunk four cups or more per day had a 20 per cent decreased risk, compared with women who drunk one cup of coffee or less per week.

No link was found between decaffeinated coffee consumption and the risk of depression, the researchers said, suggesting that caffeine may be behind the protective effect.

However, they also pointed out that the study findings "cannot prove that caffeine or caffeinated coffee reduces the risk of depression, but only suggests the possibility of such a protective effect."

In the Archives of Internal Medicine journal, the researchers wrote: "In this large prospective cohort of older women free of clinical depression or severe depressive symptoms at baseline, risk of depression decreased in a dose-dependent manner with increasing consumption of caffeinated coffee.

"Further investigations are needed to confirm this finding and to determine whether usual caffeinated coffee consumption may contribute to prevention or treatment of depression."

This article was published on Tue 27 September 2011

Image © Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

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