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.