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Midlife Minute: The Drink That Might Beat Depression

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 09/29/2011
Last Updated: 10/28/2019

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It's starting. The shorter days. The dark mornings. The falling leaves. Switching out my flip-flops for boots. The roar of the school buses. The absence of my favorite foods like bright red watermelon, blueberries and juicy nectarines and peaches. Pumpkins everywhere. Colorful flowers nowhere. (OK, mums are flowers and they're colorful…but I HATE mums).

Need I go on?

Short of moving to a sunny, warm climate, what's a girl to do?

There's always exercise. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. These chemicals trigger a positive feeling in the body as well as reducing your perception of pain. Studies have shown that exercise can be a very potent and real treatment option for depression for many people.

But it's more than likely you all know that already, especially if you're a regular reader of my blog. So, what's new on the horizon that can help perk you up?

Try coffee.

New research suggests that coffee can ward off depression over the long term, especially for women. Interestingly, women are twice as likely to suffer depression as men.

Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the study found that women who routinely downed two to three cups of caffeinated coffee during the day reduced their risk of developing depression by 15 percent over the 10-year study period. (These women did better than women who consumed one cup or less per day.) And more, in this case, was better: women who drank four or more cups a day had a 20 percent lower risk.  Decaf drinkers did not show a similar reduction in depression rates.

This doesn't mean that depression can be directly prevented with caffeine (if that were the case, Starbucks would be overrun), but instead that there is a positive association between caffeine and mood. As reported in Reuters, Dr. Alberto Ascherio, the study's senior study author, says that the study does not prove that coffee lowers depression risk but that it might be protective against depression in some way.

Scientifically speaking, caffeine binds to receptors for the brain chemicals that are associated with mood. Here's my armchair analysis: going out for coffee or even drinking a cup alone usually involves either taking some time off, meeting a friend or being around social people. And taking breaks throughout the day is so helpful to re-energize your brain. What's more, social engagement can have as great an effect on mood as fitness activities.

Make mine a double latte!

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This is interesting research. Unfortunately, I do not drink coffee at all and have never cared for it. I guess i'll have to find other ways to stay cheery!

I'm sure there are plenty of other ways - and research - on how to amp up your mood. Coffee is but one.

if your armchair anaylysis proves correct, perhaps the fact that I'm a tea drinker rather than a coffee one ma prove just as helpful...

Makes sense to me, Kerry. Although tea doesn't have the same caffeine as coffee, perhaps there are other good reasons it wards off depression, like taking a break and socializing with others.

I can see a cup of coffee or two as mini-doses of self-care every day. Makes sense to me!

Coffee as self-care...like that!

Very pleased here to have a real reason to keep drinking coffee every day.

I love an iced decaf cappuccino with skim milk, even in the winter. And I know it wards off depression. Why? Because when it's dark in NYC in January it reminds me of drinking iced cappuccino in Madrid or Istanbul or some other place where I've enjoyed the sun and the heat with friends.

That's a nice way to be transported back to good memories!

Love the research that shows the benefits of coffee. Coming from a family with a German heritage, coffee was a big part of our lives. I don't think there's a photo that exists of my mother without her coffee (with the exception of her wedding photo). I don't drink as much as she did, but it is a part of my daily life. :)

Hmmm ... I'm feeling skeptical about this, but mostly because I'm not really a coffee-drinking girl. I try not to be one of those people who cannot function without it, but if it has medicinal qualities ... then ...

funny, how many things I instinctually do to battle my depression..exercise was always obvious to me..and now I hear my coffee drinking! great news..

I guess I do that, too. I always head straight to Starbucks after I finish at the gym. Now I understand why.

Not a coffee drinker here--I'll have to stick to straight chocolate as my mood booster;) Hey, it's high in anti-oxidants, right?

Nothing wrong with a little (dark) chocolate!

I'm a coffee drinker. And when winter sets in, I find myself drinking more of it than usual. I thought it was because of the cold weather, but maybe it's to ward of the winter doldrums.

Is the same true of tea, I wonder?

Jose Cuervo always cheers me up.


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