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How Many Cups of Coffee Per Day for Mental Health?

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Coffee can decrease depression says study.

Discover the number of cups of coffee you should be drinking every day. And why, during COVID-19, drinking coffee is even more important than ever to your health.


A recent review of multiple studies reveals that drinking coffee is proving to have an added benefit to an already long and growing list. More precisely, that coffee drinkers are less likely to be depressed than people who do not drink coffee.

Approach Your Coffee Like A Shave In The Morning

While the exact mechanisms behind how coffee achieves this effect remains elusive, Dr. Alan Leviton of Harvard University believes that the evidence thus far suggests that coffee’s anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and microbiome-promoting properties as well as caffeine’s ability to protect brain cells from chemicals responsible for fatigue and depression, all lead up to a 32% lower prevalence of self-reported depression in coffee drinkers in comparison to people who do not drink coffee at all.

This is especially relevant today, as the U.S. is nearing a mental health crisis. The numbers of infected and affected continue to climb into the summer, with experts forecasting that the second half of this year may very well be a continuation of what we experienced during this past spring.

In fact, according to a news release from the National Coffee Association, “Calls to the U.S. government’s mental health crisis hotline rocketed up more than 1000% in April alone as the coronavirus claimed tens of thousands of lives and tens of millions of jobs.”

How Coffee Helps

In the review, Dr. Leviton identified key potential ways in which coffee may have a direct or indirect effect on mental health:

1. Coffee reduces oxidation. Antioxidants in coffee could be responsible for controlling the levels of oxidative-stress compounds in the blood when a person is beginning to experience depression.

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2. Coffee fights inflammation. There is evidence that shows that inflammation-related proteins found in the blood of people who are depressed, can be treated with anti-inflammation medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Coffee’s own anti-inflammatory properties could be involved in playing a similar role associated with a reduction in depression with patients.

3. Caffeine blocks mood-depressing chemicals in the brain. Adenosine is a well-known mood-affecting chemical that binds to brain cell receptors resulting in fatigue and depression. When a blocking agent binds to adenosine, less of it is attached to the brain cells and more of it is detectable floating around in the blood. Studies show that coffee drinkers have more free-floating adenosine in their blood than those who have depression and do not drink coffee.

4. Coffee’s impact on gut health promotes mental health. There is considerable scientific support for the notion that your gut bacteria influence how your brain functions. Coffee has prebiotics that are believed to support the growth and function of good bacteria in the gut, which are involved in fatty acid and neurotransmitter production that leads to positive mental health benefits.

And the Recommended Number of Cups of Coffee is…

So, what’s the magic number of cups of coffee per day that could lead to improved mental health and possibly help fight off depression? According to the review, 2-4 cups per day appears to provide optimal protection, with the caveat that there is no evidence that more than this number offers any evidence of increased benefit.

Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on the connection between coffee and healthy living. For continual updates about the benefits of coffee on your health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Images courtesy of Pixabay and the writer


Drinking Coffee Can Reduce Depression Risk by up to One Third” National Coffee Association news release. May 2020.

Coffee Consumers are Less Likely Than Others to be Depressed: a review of current research on coffee, depression, and depressive symptoms” by Dr. Alan Leviton, professor of neurology, Harvard Medical School.