Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Would You Like Prozac With Your Latte?

The Guardian recently published this story about a longitudinal Harvard study of 51,000 female coffee drinkers followed over ten years. They found that there was a 20% lower risk of clinical depression in the women who drank four or more cups of coffee a day compared to non-drinkers. This is consistent with a previous study of 86,000 female nurses followed over ten years, where they found that the relative risk of suicide was reduced even for moderate to low coffee drinkers, defined as drinking two or three cups per day.

This is good news for me since I usually start my day with a half a pot before I get to work. (Yes, that much, really. No wonder Dinah sent me a link to this story and said, "You've gotta blog about this.")

The trick is, there may be a ceiling effect to all this: once you get to eight or more cups a day this risk of suicide starts to increase again according to one study.

Somewhat gratuitously, the Guardian article threw in reference to our "druggy society" and faulted the researchers for not considering other factors like social supports, involvement in religious groups or community activities, and even whether the women were drinking coffee alone or with friends:

"As the scientists will also tell you, neurotransmitters respond to everything: hugs, kisses, conversation, books, pictures, gardening, hunger, worry, rows, war – all raise or lower chemical levels."
Ah yes, clinical depression and suicide must be the result of not getting enough hugs or the fact that you haven't taken up gardening. Cringe-worthy health reporting, at its best. The reporter concludes:

"...supposedly scientific comments of this sort serve little purpose except to coax women into a state the doctors can then medicate."
Amazing. A simple study about caffeine and depression has somehow been morphed into another nefarous plot by evil Dr. Pillshrink.


Carrie said...

I guess I need to read the article again!! I think I got to the part about gardening, companionship, peace, love and hugs and then quit reading. However - how does this study send more people into the pill pusher's arms? I think it does the opposite?? I don't drink coffee, but I find my caffeine consumption to be protective of not just myself, but of everyone else around me, too. ;)

Agree w/your comments on twitter that this trivializes depression in women. I'm not surprised. Depression gets trivialized in general, and especially when it comes to women.

Anonymous said...

Right, well...I read the article last night and it seemed to say that the coffee drinkers were also more likely to drink alcohol and moke ciggies yet were in better health mentally and physically, stroke wise anyway. Alcohol, oh yes. Stopped smoking a few years ago. Time to start again? BTW, ST.

Parwathy Narayan said...

I saw the same study and somehow I didn't buy it. Like you said, there are many other factors that they haven't taken into account. At least this is research that is being done on something that is not a drug since most psychiatrists are pill pushers. I'm not against meds, 'cause I take them myself, but I'm not into polypharmacy and over-medicating a patient until their a zombie. I like the holistic approach which I write about in my own blog. Great blog:)

jesse said...

What about the possibility that the women who drink that much coffee a day have a more hyper, upbeat personality with a higher level of serotonin to start with? So that if you could separate out this group they would have less depression whether or not they drank coffee?

I suspect that if they were drinking Starbucks at $4.50 each for years and then tried a really good Italian cappuccino they would then have complete reason to become depressed.

Sunny CA said...

The article is missing the same point that many researchers seem to miss, which is that correlation is different than causation. When I have been depressed, I don't bother to brew coffee nor do I get out to drink it. If I am up and living a normal life I have a cup of coffee in my hand as soon as I have waited long enough for my thyroid pill to digest. When I have 100% lethargy, a cup of coffee is not a self-started the way it is when I am functioning well. it is a correlation not a causation. As for 8+ cups of coffee a day, wouldn't most people think that is a bit odd usage?

(I hate it when the spell-checker pops up and covers the verification word when I am trying to type the odd word supplied).

Liz said...

i call this good news----mmmm, coffee.

Carrie said...

Today is National Coffee Day - timely for that study to come out just before that! It's a Juan Valdez conspiracy!! :-D

Anyhow - I think the study was actually saying that drinking coffee was protective against depression in the first place - not that drinking coffee when you're depressed would help. So - you'd have people who consumed 4 cups a day with no depression in their lifetime, directly attributed to coffee. Haha - yes, it does sound ridiculous. I only read about 10 different news updates on it, however, and have not read the original article. I still think it's bunk, but just thought I'd point that out.

As for the 8+ cup thing - sadly, I know many people who come close to or hit that mark regularly. All of them work in health care in various capacities and many of them were MSN grad students on top of their jobs. There were many days where I drank 4 12-oz red bulls in a day and still managed to fall instantly asleep after consuming the last one in some attempt to get an assignment done at 11pm after working 12 hours or doing clinical for some ungodly amount of time. This before waking up at 3:30 or 4:30am the next morning to go to one of my clinicals again. I shudder to think what my mental health state would have been without that much caffeine - cuz it wasn't that pretty with it!! Haha (I SWEAR!! One. More. Freaking. Red. Light.// SNOW AND ICE AGAIN??? This always goes awesomely in my 1999 front heavy Nissan Maxima when I'm required to be at work no matter what the weather and live 40 minutes away... *self implosion*)

Seriously - pass me the caffeine. :)

Maggie said...

Drinking four cups of coffee would give me horrible feelings of dread and impending doom. (And for unknown reasons it takes me forever to figure this out. You'd think that immediately following a giant Wawa coffee, the cause of my anxiety would be obvious, but somehow I always find myself thinking it must have a non-chemical source.)

I must assume that people who regularly drink four cups of coffee are less prone to such feelings than I am, making their coffee consumption an effect of a generally less-neurotic nature, rather than a cause.