Needless to say, depression is a horrible, horrible thing. Living with depression is unbearable, and the suicide statistics in the UK report that suicide is the leading cause of death from men aged 20-34 in England and Wales, so it’s no laughing matter, and I wouldn’t write a blog post about depression lightly, it’s such a serious issue.
I struggled with anxiety as a kid, mainly because I just thought too much, and too deeply I think, and freaked myself out… and I went through a patch when I was younger in which I was effected by depression. If you’ve not experienced it, you really don’t want to! It’s indescribably horrendous, I don’t think there are physical afflictions that could rival the debilitating symptoms of depression; it’s as if everything around you and inside of you turns black, I can’t think of another way to describe it.
Luckily for me, I was only touched by depression for a short period as a youngster, and I know myself well enough now to know if I’m slipping into anxiety based thinking, and other negative habits such as the way I’m eating, and how much sleep I’m getting, and to modify accordingly.
I do know people who suffer badly with clinical depression, and what I experienced for just a short period is nothing compared to someone who suffers from long term depression, and I think anyone who manages to deal with it long term is amazing, I don’t know how they do it.
Something I am aware of when it comes to depression, is that it’s usually advised to be careful when it comes to drinking coffee, or more specifically caffeine. There have been studies in the past which have seemed suggest some link between caffeine intake and depression. Within the past few years though, there have been study after study appearing to link coffee with all kinds of great health benefits, including warding off a range of diseases and illnesses including Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, liver cirrhosis, Alzheimer’s and… depression and suicide.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health investigated three separate studies, and ascertained that that the suicide rate of adults who drink coffee daily, is about half that of adults who do not drink coffee! Interestingly, this study also took decaf consumption into consideration, and found that people who drink only decaf have the same suicide risk of those who drink coffee, which points to caffeine being the important component.
I find this interesting because with many of the other health benefits that we’ve discovered are linked to coffee over recent years, they seem to be present with both decaf and caffeinated coffee, indicating that it is the plethora or phytochemical goodness that coffee contains that deliver health benefits rather than only caffeine. When it comes to depression however, this data suggests that it is caffeine that is doing the work.
The authors of one of these studies, including Dr Michel Lucas, PhD, RD, and eight others, state that caffeine in low to medium doses, has a number of well documented psychostimulant effects including improved hand-eye co-ordination, increased alertness, reduction in drowsiness, increase sensations of well being, and energy. They do go on to suggest that these effects are linked only to low to medium dose, and that what would be considered a low or medium dose differs in individuals, as we all have different caffeine tolerance levels.
So what these very clever folk are saying, is that caffeine seems to have positive side effects when consumed in what is a low to moderate dose for each individual – which could be different with you than it is with me. In other words, “X cups per day is healthy”, isn’t quite right, it’s not one size fits all, we’re all different. They do go on to state that most people adapt their caffeine consumption according to their own tolerance, so most of us know if we’re consuming too much caffeine or not. I know I do, I can tell by the way I feel if I’ve been drinking too much coffee, and I think my caffeine tolerance is fairly high.
So all of this really is quite common sense stuff, they’re saying that it would appear that if we consume caffeine at a safe dosage for us as individuals, it appears to be a positive, a mood enhancer, and possibly can help to reduce the chances of depression. However if you overdose on the stuff, it’s likely to have the opposite effect, by leading to things (insomnia, anxiety) that can lead towards or intensify depression.
In addition to this, we know there are many health benefits from coffee consumption that are not linked to caffeine, which are thanks to antioxidants such as:
- Chlorogenic acid. Which is thought to help reduce Gallstones, and to reduce the risk of liver disease.
- Quinic acid: The acidity you taste in coffee, you can thank Quinic acid for that, it’s also thought to work as a kind of catalyst for the other antioxidants
- N-methylpyridinium: This is created while the coffee beans are roasted, and is thought to reduce acid production in the body, and also to increase the potency of the other antioxidants.
And roughly a thousand other compounds!
I find that amazing personally, that the humble coffee bean delivers not only caffeine, but a vast array of chemical compounds, how on earth can one small coffee seed contain over a thousand chemical compounds, they must be really small! 😉
It is very important to say here that it is very strongly advised that anyone suffering from depression should not self-medicate with coffee, or anything else, and that anyone who is suffering from depression and who isn’t getting help, should seek help right now. Don’t leave it, depression is a killer, you wouldn’t keep it to yourself if it were cancer or any other disease, and depression is a disease, if you have it you need to get help.
Life is like a box of chocolate, so follow me on twitter and that’s all I have to say about that.