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Apparently, coffee really does give people a reason to live. A recent study released by the Harvard School of Public Health found that caffeinated coffee may reduce the risk of suicide in both men and women by 50%.
The Harvard researchers compared the risk of suicide in adults who consumed less than two cups of coffee daily, or who chose decaf coffee with adults who drank two to four cups of coffee daily.
The study followed more than 200,000 people over the course of 16 years. The researchers came to the conclusion that those who drank caffeinated coffee at the rate of two to four cups daily — or about 400 mg of caffeine consumption per day — had a 50% lower risk of suicide than those who drank less coffee or drank decaf coffee.
The findings are not that surprising when one considers that a 2011 Harvard study found that women who drink coffee have a reduced risk of having depression in comparison to non-coffee drinkers. The team of scientists are quite certain that, despite the presence of hundreds of compounds in coffee, caffeine is the operative substance in this case.
In addition, the researchers concluded that there appears to be little further benefit in consuming more than 400 mg of caffeine daily.
The researchers took their data from three major population-based health studies: the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the Nurses’ Health study and the Nurses’ Health Study II. Those studies rely on self-reports of specific health and fitness habits via questionnaires that are distributed every four years. Among the habits tracked is caffeine use. There were 277 suicides reported over the 16 years of the studies among the more than 200,000 participants.
So does that mean you should increase your caffeine intake if you’re depressed? No, say the researchers. Most adults adjust their caffeine intake to their own optimal level, and increasing their consumption could cause unpleasant side effects. And, as always, correlation does not suggest causation. It could well be that people who are not depressed are more likely to enjoy a good cup of coffee than those who are feeling suicidal.
You can add this good news about coffee and mood to a growing body of research that suggests that coffee is good for you in a number of unexpected ways. A 2012 study, for example, found that people who drank the equivalent of a cup of coffee about an hour before performing a computer office task were less likely to develop pain in their shoulders, forearms and wrists during the task. In 2010, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center found that non-smokers who drank coffee daily showed better lung function than those who did not drink coffee, though the effect did not appear to extend to smokers. And another 2012 study strongly suggests that coffee, and in particular caffeine, can help stave off memory and cognitive losses that commonly accompany aging and dementia. A 2011 study, however, suggests that caffeine alone doesn’t have the same effect that coffee does on the brain, suggesting that coffee contains other beneficial ingredients that may all work together to protect the brain.
Regardless of whether it’s the caffeine content of coffee that works the magic, or whether a number of the chemicals in coffee work together to improve mood, reduce pain and protect the brain from cognitive loss, one thing is certain. A cup of coffee tastes far better than any of the medications commonly prescribed to do all of those things even without a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.
Review the full study at http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/07/drinking-coffee-may-reduce-risk-of-suicide-by-50/