Drinking coffee every day has been shown the reduce risk of depression and low mood.
Drinking coffee is a daily ritual for approximately 85% of people living in the UK. We love coffee for its energy-enhancing effects, its taste, and for the totally acceptable excuse to take a break from whatever work we’re in the middle of to make a brew.
For most people, coffee is just something they enjoy or that they turn to when they need an energy boost. But what if we told you that your daily cup of coffee could be doing more than just increasing your productivity or giving you the energy, you need to start your day? Health experts have recently discovered that coffee plays host to some of the most powerful mood-boosting compounds known to man and could cut your risk of developing depression by up to a third. What’s more, if you’re already suffering with poor mental health, indulging in a daily cup of joe could help to improve your symptoms.
Experts believe that coffee’s mental health benefits come because of its high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The caffeine in coffee can also act in a similar way to a class of antidepressant drugs called SSRIs which block receptors in the brain from binding to certain chemicals that cause low mood and depression.
How can coffee improve your mental health?
Not only is the ritual of brewing your daily coffee a great way to set you up for a positive and proactive day, but the coffee itself may directly contribute to a decrease in depression, fatigue, and low mood and in turn improve your wellbeing and mental health.
There are lots of possible reasons that drinking coffee may result in an elevated mood. Let’s take a look at some of them:
1. Coffee is a powerful antioxidant.
Research has shown that people suffering from low mood and depression have higher levels of oxidation in their bodies than people with good mental health. Specifically, depressed people were shown to have fewer antioxidant foods in their diet. This includes coffee. Coffee is extremely high in antioxidants and is in fact the most consumed source of antioxidants in the western world today. Experts attribute the high concentration of antioxidants in coffee to its ability to act as an effective mood-enhancer.
2. Coffee has potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Those suffering worse-than-average mental health have been shown to have elevated levels of inflammatory markers in their blood. Again, much like the SSRIs that are often prescribed to people with depression, drinking coffee every day has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect and thus to decrease both the likelihood and the intensity of depression and other negative emotional states.
"Evidence shows that coffee drinkers are significantly less likely to be depressed than people who do not drink coffee…. coffee’s positive impact on mental health appears to be related to its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and microbiome-promoting properties." - Dr. Alan Leviton, Harvard University
3. Caffeine acts in a similar way to SSRI drugs.
Like most prescribed antidepressants, caffeine blocks receptors in the brain from binding with a chemical called adenosine that is strongly correlated to fatigue and depression. Without getting too scientific, suffice to say that research has shown that people who drink more coffee have more adenosine in their blood, which in turn suggests that the chemical has been blocked from absorption in the brain. Remember that not all caffeine is created equal - whilst the caffeine in coffee can really help to elevate your mood, if you’re getting most of your caffeine from fizzy drinks, the added sugar could make your mental health worse.
4. Coffee is a fantastic source of prebiotics.
In scientific circles, the gut is colloquially referred to as “the second brain”. This is because the make-up of the gut microbiome has an incredible impact on brain health and mental wellbeing. A happy gut = a happy mind. Prebiotics are microorganisms that feed the probiotics that feed your microbiome! It sounds complicated but all you need to know is that increased consumption of prebiotics has been shown to drastically improve gut health which, in turn, drastically improves mood and mental wellbeing. And coffee is one of the best sources of prebiotics out there.
How much coffee do you need to drink to improve your mental health?
According to one study conducted by the National Institute of Health, those who consume four to five cups of coffee daily reported feeling significantly happier than those who do not drink coffee at all.
In another study, this time carried out in Korea, adults who drank at least two cups of coffee per day saw the greatest improvements in their mental wellbeing. In the survey, which looked at the self-reported happiness scores of 10,000 individuals, those who consumed two cups of coffee every day were 68% less likely to report feelings of depression than those who never drank coffee.
Finally, Spanish students who drank four cups of coffee per day were shown to be 20% less likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression than those who didn’t drink coffee at all.
While further research is needed to confirm the exact extent of coffee’s effect on mood and mental health, the studies cited above certainly suggest that coffee can be incredibly beneficial for boosting mood and increasing happiness.
To learn more about the health benefits of coffee, check out our most popular blog post here, which is on that very subject. Or, alternatively, hop straight to it and shop here to experience the mood-boosting effects of a daily cup of joe for yourself.