A new study by the Harvard School of Public Health has found that drinking three to four cups of coffee a day reduces the risk of suicide in both men and women by as much as 50 per cent.
“Unlike previous investigations, we were able to assess association of consumption of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, and we identify caffeine as the most likely candidate of any putative protective effect of coffee,” said lead researcher Michel Lucas, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH.
The study was published online in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry.
Researchers found that the risk of suicide in adults who drank two to four cups of coffee a day was roughly half that of those who drank decaffeinated coffee, or no coffee at all.
According to the Harvard School authors, caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and acts as an antidepressant by boosting the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
The study examined data on 43,599 men and 164,825 women and their caffeine consumption, including tea, soft drinks and chocolate. Coffee was found to be the major source of caffeine (80 per cent) consumed among participants. In total, there were 277 deaths from suicide reported during the course of the study.
Despite the findings, the authors advise against upping our daily intake of caffeine, because it could lead to a number of side effects.
“Overall, our results suggest that there is little further benefit for consumption above 2-3 cups/day or 400 mg of caffeine/day,” they wrote.