Ladies, raise your mugs and take a nice long sip! Feel better? Turns out that little boost you feel after your morning cup of coffee could be more than just a caffeine high.

A new study, released today in the Archives of Internal Medicine says women who drink four cups of coffee a day are 20 percent less likely to become depressed in comparison with women who rarely drink coffee.

Our first thought was, "Four cups? That's a lot coffee!"

We don't know about you, but after that much caffeine, we're wired, and no, we're not thinking about sad things!

 

Apparently, though, it's more scientific than that. Researcher Alberto Ascherio of Harvard School of Public Health and his team studied more than 50,000 women to determine the long-term effects of caffeine consumption.

The researchers measured their coffee consumption dating back to 1976. Then they classified the women by how much coffee they drank and followed them for 10 more years.

"We found that those women who regularly drink four or more cups of coffee a day have 20 percent lower risk of developing depression than those who rarely or never drink coffee," Ascherio said, according to Reuters.

This study focused specifically on coffee consumption, but researchers found similar patterns in overall caffeine consumption. Apparently, women who were in the top fifth of caffeine consumption had a 20 percent lower risk of depression than women in the bottom fifth.

It's not totally clear why coffee could help ward off depression, but Ascherio has a few ideas. Studies in animals have shown that caffeine protects against certain neurotoxins. Also, brain receptors that respond to caffeine are concentrated in the basal ganglia, an area that is important for both depression and Parkinson's disease.

Of course, there are contradictory points of view on coffee in the medical community. In fact, after browsing the website of The Harvard School of Public Health, we found this little blurb posted along with a information about a 2004 study that claimed coffee was safe for the moderate drinker:

However, as the September issue notes, coffee is not completely innocent. Caffeine, coffee's main ingredient is a mild addictive stimulant. And coffee does have modest cardiovascular effects such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and occasional irregular heartbeat that should be considered. Studies have been largely inconclusive regarding coffee and its effect on women's health issues such as breast health, cancer, and osteoporosis. But, the negative effects of coffee tend to emerge in excessive drinking so it is best to avoid heavy consumption.

What exactly is heavy consumption? Four cups? Well, maybe you'll have high blood pressure or irregular heartbeat, but at least you'll be happy!

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