The effects of caffeine on Depression

I am a mountain dew addict. I drink about two 20 ounce bottles of mountain dew, daily, on a slow day. As I research my depression and its causes and what it causes, I am depressed to say my mountain dew habit could be making me worse! Several studies looking at caffeine intake in college students have shown that the students who consumed moderate to high (700 mg per day) levels of caffeine had higher rates of depression.  There was also a correlation between the amount of caffeine consumption and severity of depression.

Even more interesting is combination of high doses of caffeine and refined sugar, such as my beloved mountain dew. In one of the most interesting studies, the study engineers requested volunteers of those “who felt depressed and didn’t know why, tired all the time, even when they sleep, moody and generally feel bad most of the time.” (Does any of this sound familiar to you?) The subjects were all given baseline psychological testing and then placed on a caffeine and sucrose free diet for one week. Sixty percent of those subjects reported feeling significantly better after the caffeine and sugar free week. The participants were then given either sugar sweetened kool-aid and a caffeine pill or nutra-sweet kool-aid and cellulose capsule. This phase lasted six days. About 50% of the test subjects ingesting the sugar-sweetened kool-aid and caffeine became depressed.

Other studies have shown similar results. While it saddens me to admit, the evidence seems to suggest that I need to cut caffeine out of my life, not just caffeine, but sugar as well. My beloved mountain dew contains about 54mg of caffeine in a 12 oz can. I drink much, much more than that, each day.

It is possible that some of us, particularly those with depression are more sensitive to the caffeine than others. I have heard people that perform a detox for a week find themselves feeling better once they eliminate all the processed sugar from their diet. Can you imagine, no caffeine, no sugar and no cigarettes… this is supposed to help my depression!?

What about my fellow-depressed readers, do you drink a lot of caffeine? How about sugar? Do you think you could give it up for a week to see if you feel better?

Quite honestly, the idea terrifies me, but, could it be worth it to feel better than this?


The encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Third ed.


One thought on “The effects of caffeine on Depression

  1. I have never really been a smoker, and I have rather strong views about alcohol and depression (i.e. if you’re prone to depression and you drink, you’re … a bit silly), but this caffeine link is new to me. Thank you.
    My body suddenly stopped tolerating coffee in 1992. I can still drink tea but coffee makes my body feel gritty ‘all the way through’ – as though it is full of sand which is grinding itself. *ugh*
    However, I believe my depressive symptoms began at least 8 years earlier than that, so it’s difficult to draw a connection between the two.
    I am enjoying your articles – please keep them coming!

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