C.R. writes:

Good news for women who love their daily grind—coffee is linked to a lower rate of depression. According to a Harvard study, women who drank four cups of coffee a day were 20 percent less likely to develop depression than women who rarely drank coffee.

I think many of us intuitively knew that, although it’s nice to hear it confirmed.

The study was quite extensive—50,000 women had their coffee consumption recorded and tracked for a ten year period (taking into account the previous ten years or more of their coffee usage). I remember reading years ago that women in South America had lower incidences of depression and that it might be linked to their high coffee consumption. (But what if it was linked to all that sunshine, or the beaches, or other lifestyle factors?).

And a small (too small to carry much weight, apparently) Finnish study from a few years back showed that men who drank coffee regularly had a lower rate of suicide.

“Drinking coffee offers a boost of energy and a lift in well being,” Alberto Ascherio of Harvard School of Public Health told Reuters.

“This short-term effect is what drives the consumption of caffeine.”

Now, it seems that over the long-term coffee appears to inhibit depression.

Coffee’s been shown to increase attention and memory performance and muscular recovery. Many years ago my former personal trainer even drank a cup before her workouts, despite the dehydrating effects. I’ve gone back and forth, though I’ve found the smell and taste of coffee enticing since childhood. (Did anybody else get “children’s coffee” growing up? A big cup of milk with a tiny swirl of coffee in it was one of my favorite treats.)

Twice in my life I gave up coffee, both times after being nagged by well-meaning friends. The first time, my Macrobiotic comrades convinced me that only dreaded diseases and imbalances would result from consuming such a potent, yin liquid. At the very same time, my TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) chums warned me that avoiding the extreme yang of my favorite brew would be best for my health. I figured that even their analyses might be off, they still could be right. So I quit for several years. I dutifully drank tea anytime I wanted a pick-me-up.

Then, after years on the wagon, I jumped off and discovered that a cup of freshly ground, black coffee in the morning had lost none of it’s appeal. In fact, this time I noticed a distinct mood-elevating effect that lasted all day. (I didn’t drink more than one cup and I didn’t even drink it every day).

Then, my raw, living and assorted natural foodie pals’ horror at even any occasional indulgence in coffee once again won me over. I dutifully faced the morning, no matter how dreary, with an invigorating green drink, fresh ripe fruit, or if it was cold out, green tea and oats or even soup with a poached free range egg.

(I still love doing that. Sometimes.)

Then once again, I began to drink coffee, and I felt better. Happier. More  upbeat. I feel more upbeat even if I drink it every other day or skip two days in a row. (Not much longer though). Hmmm. 2 plus 2 and all that.

Of course, that’s my highly biased personal opinion.

Now, this Harvard study isn’t definitive. And some of these women in the study apparently smoked and drank. Also, if you have mental health issues like anxiety or bipolar disorder, coffee (and other heavy caffeine consumption) might be a problem for you. If you have digestive problems, heart problems, and some other illnesses, coffee’s might not your best bet. (Though there are some who say coffee’s good for the liver, the lungs, and even, in some cases, the heart).

But if you are otherwise healthy and you exercise, eat right, take care of yourself mind, body, and soul, and already drink coffee, this study seems to say: Why give it up?


Photo (doesn’t that look delicious?): Julius Schorzman