Girl drinking coffee. Photocredit: joeszilagyi http://www.flickr.com/photos/rootology/2769416505/sizes/m/in/photostream/
Drink more coffee! Be less depressed! If you’re a woman, that is. At least, that’s the message coming out of the Archives of Internal Medicine, in a report in the 26thSeptember issue completed by Harvard researchers. Sure, it might give you all sorts of other nasty things, like, you know, ulcers, insomnia, acid reflux, stomach troubles, muscle tremors, and – lest we forget – ulcers, if you know that it’s going to make you feel less blue, then frankly, you could do worse than put up with an ulcer. The report covered over 50,000 American women, of an average age of 63. It follwed them over ten years, from 1996 to 2006, measuring their caffeine consumption over 24 years (from questionnaires).
“Our results support a possible protective effect of caffeine, mainly from coffee consumption, on risk of depression,” Dr Michel Lucas, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, rather cautiously said in The Daily Mail.
Can it be true? The more you drink, the better it gets. Science Daily reported that of all central nervous system stimulants, caffeine is the most used across the world. The researches found that women who drank two or three cups of coffee a day had a 15 per cent lowering in the risk of depression; those who scarfed back four gained a massive 20 per cent lowering.
You’d better watch out though. It’s best to be cautious. The Daily Mail said that the scientists thought the caffeine worked as an antidepressant because of its effect on certain hormones such as serotonin. Don’t go for decaf though – it doesn’t have the same effect at all. It’s well known that coffee has beneficial effects on prostate cancer, gout and Alzheimer’s; but don’t start bingeing on it – it also raises blood pressure. And if you’re pregnant, don’t drink more than two cups a day. Psychcentral was also sceptical, but said that if you’re otherwise healthy in mind and body, what this study seems to be saying is “Why give it up?”
At least Caffé Nero will win out. “Oh joy!” carolled Lisa Appignanesi on The Guardian. Good news at last, from “that messenger of repeated gloom.” What a shame that there’s no breakdown on “whether it’s espresso, latte or cappucino.” We knew about coffee’s benefits in the Second World War, when caffeine and amphetamines were tested on soldiers. Recently, in Finland, it was shown that coffee drinking men are also less at risk of depression. But is this news all that it’s cracked up to be? It’s depressing, that women are seen as “chemical”, meaning that life “becomes a matter of the vagaries of our hormones or our neurotransmitters.” What would really be interesting would be if we could see how that coffee was drunk – with friends? Alone? Also, it seems coffee drinkers are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, not attend church and not volunteer. Does this mean that nicotine and alcohol help too? So I’m remaining sceptical – only suggesting that we should perhaps all buy shares in Caffé Nero.
Oh well. In response to Lisa Appignanesi’s article, on Twitter all that Ben Goldacre (author of Bad Science) had to say was this: “Sigh.”
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