Who doesn’t love a freshly-brewed cup of coffee or tea? Most people would argue that they can’t live without their daily brew. While coffee and tea have many beneficial health properties for those suffering from a mental disorder, the effects of caffeine are less clear.
Even the medical community is torn about the effects of caffeine on depression, but most research shows, in small to moderate amounts it is beneficial and that the antioxidants found in coffee, tea and green tea are also beneficial for those suffering from mental disorders like depression.
In one assessment of 12 studies comprising 346,913 people, including 8,146 people suffering from depression, researchers found that coffee had a largely protective effect in preventing depression. In this meta analysis researchers concluded that caffeine, particularly from coffee, helped to prevent depression.
But, even these study results are surprising. Researchers found that among those suffering from caffeine-related depression, the risk of depression dropped with the addition of more caffeine. I know: it’s a strange finding. Normally when something causes a negative side effect eating less—not more—of the culprit will achieve the best results in reducing the side effect. But, apparently that is not the case with caffeine.
It is not clear why the increase of caffeine produces a reduction in caffeine-related depression, but it is possible that it may not be linked to the caffeine itself. That’s because the additional cups of coffee or tea (our usual way of obtaining caffeine) also come with additional antioxidants and other valuable nutrients like chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and ferulic acid that reduces the inflammation of brain and nerve cells linked with depression. Of course, it is also possible that there is some magic, yet still undetermined dose, of caffeine that actually reverses caffeine-induced depression. The jury is still out and more research on caffeine’s effects on mental disorders is necessary.
In the meantime, if you find that caffeine makes your depression worse, you may want to reduce your caffeine intake until we have a better understanding as to why some caffeine aggravates depression and a higher amount may improve it. For those who suffer from anxiety or heart palpitations, caffeine may aggravate symptoms, particularly in larger doses, so it is best to cut back on caffeine or swap out your caffeinated coffee with a decaf variety, or drink herbal tea instead of caffeinated varieties like black, white and green teas.
Overall, it’s good news for coffee and tea drinkers, even those suffering from depression. As long as your daily brew doesn’t aggravate anxiety or cause heart palpitations, you can drink up.