Are you ready for the best news you're going to hear all day?
Coffee. Reduces. The. Risk. Of. Depression.
So drink up!
According to researchers at Qingdao University Medical College in China, the sweet spot is between 68 and 509 milligrams of caffeine per day. In that range, the risk of depression decreases by 8% for each cup of coffee consumed.
Have no idea how much caffeine is in your coffee? Don't worry, you're not alone. Let's look at some numbers to see if we're falling in that sweet spot.
The average 8 ounce cup of coffee contains 95 mg of caffeine. However, most of us don't drink 8 ounces of coffee. If you're drinking from a normal sized coffee mug, expect it to hold about 11 ounces. If you're drinking from an oversized one, it's probably closer to 15 ounces.
The average 11 ounce mug of home-brewed coffee has roughly 119 mg of caffeine, assuming you're leaving some room so it doesn't spill. A 15 ounce mug has about 166 mg, with the same assumption. Remember, none of us make coffee the exact same way, so the numbers vary. If you use cream, assume a lower number.
So, to get into the sweet spot of 68-509 milligrams of caffeine with home brewed coffee:
- 1-4 cups in a normal mug
- 1-3 cups in an oversized mug
But not all of us brew our own coffee. So what about when we get it outside the house?
Starbucks, which is known for being caffeine-heavy, offers the following caffeine estimates:
- Tall (12 oz): 235 mg
- Grande (16 oz): 310 mg
- Venti (20 oz): 410 mg
Dunkin' Donuts comes in a bit lower:
- Small (10 oz): 150 mg
- Medium (14 oz): 210 mg
- Large (20 oz): 300 mg
- Extra-large (24 oz): 359 mg
Not a home-brew, Starbucks or Dunkin' person? You can find the numbers for your coffee of choice with a quick Google search.
Now...why does coffee reduce the risk of depression?
The researchers theorize it's because caffeine facilitates the transmission of serotonin and dopamine. However, since the chemical imbalance theory of depression is falling out of favor, other experts have chimed in that it could because coffee is anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. Since more modern theories link depression to inflammation and oxidative stress, this is encouraging.
My opinion? It doesn't matter why coffee reduces the risk of depression, just that it does.
So what does this all mean? That we should drink as much coffee as we can get our hands on? Or that we should continue doing that, but just with a little less guilt?
Something like that...
My interpretation is that we should drink enough coffee to be in the high end of the sweet spot, but that we might not want to go too far over it.
I tend to drink 3-5 cups out of a normal sized mug in the morning, then I cut myself off from caffeine after 2 pm. I'm lame and I find that I struggle to fall asleep if I have caffeine past that time. Since high quality sleep is an important part of my mental health routine, I take my cutoff time seriously. If I want more coffee later in the day, I drink decaf.
What works for you? Maybe you're cooler than me and can drink coffee right up to bedtime. Maybe you struggle with anxiety and find you do better on the low end of the range. Experiment. Find your own answers. Then unabashedly pursue them.
We all deserve radiant mental health. And we get that by finding what works for us, then embracing it.
Drink your coffee without feeling guilty. If you want an extra boost, drink it out of a Mental Health Mug so that you remind yourself you're the kind of person who prioritizes mental health every time you take a sip.
You might want to check out our Coffee Lovers Collection...
About the author:
Keely is a mental health advocate and the founder of Mental Health Mugs. She believes a mental health revolution is a-brewin' and that future treatments will center around root cause resolution instead of symptom suppression.
Wang, L., Shen, X., Wu, Y., & Zhang, D. (2016). Coffee and caffeine consumption and depression: A meta-analysis of observational studies. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 50(3), 228-242.