Coffee: Will a cup a day help keep the doctor away?

Cup of Coffee

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A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that women who drink coffee are less likely to develop depression. The study looked at data from more than 50,0000 women and found that regular coffee drinkers were about 20 percent less likely to become depressed. This information comes as the latest evidence in a line of potential benefits from a cup of joe. Other suggested benefits include: enhanced cognitive function, decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, and reduced rates of Alzheimers dementia, to name a few.

Does this mean that coffee drinkers should start rejoicing? Not necessarily. The data comes from a long-term observational study rather than a randomized controlled trial. An observational study cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship between coffee and a life of contentment. It can only establish an association– in this case, that women who drink more than four cups of coffee per day also tend to have lower rates of depression. Even though the study involves a large number of people and is adjusted for variables such as baseline mental and physical health, factors other than coffee consumption may contribute to the results.

Since it may be challenging to understand what all of this means for you and your heath, we’ve put together a primer to help you decide how much coffee is right for you.

How does coffee affect my health?

Coffee is a stimulant; not only does it contain caffeine, but the bean itself has several compounds that affect the brain and nervous system. Coffee also contains antioxidants, which may contribute to some of the health benefits.

Should I make it a triple?

Not so fast. Moderation is key. Coffee does appear to have some positive health effects, but it’s not without a potential down side. Consuming more than two cups per day has been linked with an increase in cardiovascular disease. Additionally, while coffee in moderate amounts may boost your mood, too much can contribute to anxiety and insomnia. Before you jump into more java, you should consider the following:

How, when, and how much? There’s a big difference between enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning and having seven espresso shots to get you through the day. More is not always better, particularly when it comes to stimulants. Drinking coffee late in the day may contribute to insomnia and other sleep disturbances. Even the best of lattes is not a good substitute for a night of sound sleep.

How do you “doctor” your drink? Coffee is one thing. Lattes, blended drinks, and other concoctions add sugars and calories that may not be helping your health. Even adding a tablespoon of cream and sugar to your simple morning brew can change a two-calorie cup into a 100-calorie splurge.

What if coffee isn’t my thing?  

If you aren’t a coffee drinker, don’t fear. This is not a habit that you need to start. Good old-fashioned water does wonders. Even if you do drink coffee, you should still be staying hydrated with at least eight glasses of water per day. Green tea or herbal teas are fantastic alternatives and carry their own potential health benefits; green tea is full of natural antioxidants and many herbal teas have medicinal properties.

The bottom line:

If you do happen to be among the 150 million Americans who start the day with a nice cup of coffee, you can do so with a brighter smile tomorrow. Coffee appears to have some underappreciated health benefits and may well help stave off depression. Just enjoy it in moderation.

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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. The One Medical Group entities and 1Life Healthcare, Inc. make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.