Despite being widely consumed worldwide, relatively little is known about the long-term health effects of coffee and its main psychoactive component, caffeine. In this issue of the Archives, Lucas et al present the results of a large, prospective epidemiological study of coffee consumption and depression incidence, finding an inverse association. This study makes an important contribution because it is, to my knowledge, the first large-scale study of coffee consumption to evaluate a mental health outcome in women. Previous work has focused mainly on the effects of caffeine on cardiovascular disease (generally finding no overall effect on cardiovascular disease incidence or mortality), inflammation (generally showing modest decreases in markers of systemic inflammation), and particular types of malignant neoplasms, including breast cancer and esophageal cancer (generally showing no or modest protective effects). Taken together, these results reassure coffee drinkers that there seem to exist no glaringly deleterious health consequences to coffee consumption. As health care professionals, however, it seems premature to recommend coffee consumption until studies with methodologies better able to determine causality are conducted.
Berkowitz SA. Coffee Consumption and Depression RiskComment on “Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among Women”. Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(17):1578. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.427