Drink Coffee, Be Happy: Coffee drinkers are less likely to be depressed

New research out of Harvard Medical School shows coffee drinkers are less likely to be depressed than non-drinkers.


“Don’t talk to me till I’ve had my morning coffee.”

We’ve all heard that cliché before – but a new review conducted by Dr. Alan Leviton, Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, of existing, independent research, suggests that coffee doesn’t just give you a much-needed jolt in the morning — it may actually help you stave off clinical depression.

In the times we find ourselves living in, it’s no surprise that reports of anxiety and depression are on the rise. Between the constant barrage of negative news headlines and very real concerns over the health and well-being of our loved ones, the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t exactly lend itself to good cheer and contentment. National Mental Health Month couldn’t have come soon enough. 

But America’s favorite beverage could help with that. The results of Dr. Leviton’s independent research shows that coffee drinkers are less likely to be depressed than non-drinkers – and that the more coffee you drink, the less likely you are to be depressed, with the benefits peaking right around 13 oz. each day. That’s slightly more than your go-to Tall coffee from Starbucks.

Let thy morning coffee be thy medicine.  

The results don’t just lend credence to the “don’t talk to me till I’ve had my morning coffee” quip — they also carry profound implications for how we understand coffee’s role in our mental health.

According to Dr. Leviton, there are several factors that could be contributing to coffee’s mood-boosting effects. For example, coffee is known to be rich in antioxidants. Depressed people tend to have higher levels of stress-related oxidants in the body and are more likely than others to have diets low in antioxidants – attributable, at least in part, to lower coffee consumption. The antioxidants found in coffee may very well help offset that deficiency.

Coffee also has anti-inflammatory properties, some of which have been directly linked to improved mood. Depression and suicidal ideation are both correlated with higher levels of inflammation, research shows, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that some of the anti-depression effects of coffee are due to its anti-inflammation effects.

And then there’s caffeine. One might assume it’s the stimulation caffeine provides that brightens one’s mood, but a compound in the blood called adenosine is a more likely explanation. The more caffeine one consumes, the higher the concentration of adenosine in the blood. Depressed people tend to have lower concentrations of adenosine than non-depressed people – and one study found that the more severe the depression, the lower the concentration of adenosine. As if we needed another reason to skip the decaf (kidding, of course…).

Dr. Leviton says some of coffee’s mood-boosting effects are present right there in the mug, but other positive effects of coffee are only unlocked as coffee interacts with our bodies[W4] . You may have heard of probiotics before – they’re those little pearls you can buy at the pharmacy that promote a healthy gut microbiome. But there’s also prebiotics and postbiotics, which, like probiotics, provide health benefits once properly processed. The prebiotics found in brewed coffee, for example, are readily metabolized by organisms in the gut. This process transforms them into short chain fatty acids or other metabolites, including brain-penetrating neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA, and dopamine – the four major regulators of our mood.

Dr. Leviton’s study goes into much greater detail, and is a worthwhile read for the curious. His findings are welcome news for anyone seeking a little comfort in these uncertain, turbulent times — so burr up those beans, fluff those filters, and put a fresh pot on – trust the research, it’ll make you feel better.

Read Dr. Leviton’s research here.

Coffee: The Best Health Habit of All?

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What science can teach us about coffee.

By Dr. Bob Arnot, author, The Coffee Lover’s Bible


Coffee may be the greatest nutritional miracle in our world today. What other delicious beverage gives you such a bright, optimistic outlook while making a tremendous impact on your overall health, well-being, and longevity?

Coffee is also one of the greatest indulgences, a sensory experience that rivals the best wines. How else can you make such a robust improvement with such minimal effort. That wasn’t always the case.

I’ve written more than a dozen books on nutrition including two on Coffee. When I was chief medical correspondent for Dateline NBC, Today, NBC Nightly News, and CBS Evening News from the 1980s into the 2000s, and most recently as a contributor on Dr. Oz, we were always on the lookout for the next great nutrition story.

Ironically, we were alert to stories about why coffee was bad for you. At that time, coffee had a reputation for causing harm, and most people feared that it was unhealthy.

Why?

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