Can Coffee Help Depression?

By | January 13, 2019

There’s a lot of research out there showing how caffeine affects mental health so let’s break it down.

Coffee is the most used psychoactive drug of all time but can coffee help depression? In America, 44 percent of consumers drink two to three cups a day on average. With all the coffee guzzled can we statistically say caffeine is safe to consume?

I drink a lot of coffee. Typically my day starts at five am with a French Press which is 32-ounces. Then dropping off my daughter at daycare around 8:30 am I’ll grab another 16-ounce coffee at the local shop. I began to wonder how coffee impacted my health. There’s a lot of research out there showing how caffeine affects mental health so let’s break it down.

Potential Positive Impact on Depression

New research has come out stating that inflammation of the brain causes depression. Did you know that caffeine can alleviate inflammation? Neither did I but coffee is made up of a mixed bag of antioxidants including chlorogenic acid, nicotinic acid, trigonelline, quinolinic acid, tannic acid and pyrogallic acid, which are all known to decrease inflammation.

Another cool chemical contrivance of caffeine is its ability to block adenosine receptors. What the heck are adenosine receptors? I’m glad you asked. After getting a good night’s sleep, our central nervous system flushes out adenosine because it makes us feel tired. When we don’t get enough sleep, adenosine begins to accumulate in the brain leading to a lack of energy and motivation.

By binding itself to adenosine, caffeine allows more dopamine to enter the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that coordinates decision-making, motivation, and reward perception) increasing our ability to feel motivated and to experience pleasure, two characteristics often missing in a depressed state.

How Much is too Much

However, before you get too excited and rush out to grab another triple-shot, Caramel Macchiato with some whip and extra drizzle, you must know that caffeine can have adverse effects on mental health too. Just ask Dave Grohl!

Too much caffeine can cause a host of health issues. High doses of caffeine can cause heart palpitations, prevent us from getting a good night sleep and even heighten anxiety levels.

These effects are not becoming for someone battling depression. On top of that, high doses of caffeine can also lead to loss of magnesium in the body. Magnesium plays a vital role in the function of brain neurotransmitters. Coffee can also spike blood sugar levels and is worse if you use sugar or sugary creamers in your delicious cup of joe. Lack of sleep, depleted magnesium resources, and blood sugar spikes are the recipe for burnout.

Moderation is Key

As with most everything in life, I think the adage of “moderation is key” can be applied to coffee and caffeine in general.

In small doses caffeine has the following positive effects:

1. Reduces inflammation
2. Increases the amount of dopamine in the brain
3. Help us feel motivated

In large doses caffeine can do the following:

1. Create heart palpitations
2. Increase the risk of insomnia
3. Spike blood sugar levels

What do you Think?

After doing this little bit of research, I think I need to cut back on my coffee consumption. Lately, I’ve noticed that I feel a bit “edgy” which signals to me that I’m drinking too much caffeine. However, I do believe that small doses of caffeine are beneficial to my overall wellbeing.

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