Caffeine Avoidance

Our rating
 Question mark: This treatment has not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.

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The rating system

  • 3 smiliesThese treatments are very useful. They are strongly supported as effective by scientific evidence.
  • 2 smiliesThese treatments are useful. They are supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.
  • 1 smileyThese treatments are promising and may be useful. They have some evidence to support them, but more evidence is needed to be sure they work.
  • No smiley On the available evidence, these treatments do not seem to be effective.
  • Question markThese treatments have not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.
  • These treatments are not recommended and could be dangerousSafety or other concerns have been raised for the use of these treatments.

What is it?

Caffeine is a stimulant drug found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, cola drinks and many other soft drinks. Cutting out caffeine from your diet has been proposed to help depression in some cases.

How does it work?

Some people are thought to have a sensitivity to caffeine which may impact their mood. Caffeine may also increase feelings of anxiety in some people, due to its stimulant effects. Because depression and anxiety often occur together, cutting out caffeine may help some people with depression by lowering their associated anxiety.

Is it effective?

There is very little scientific evidence on caffeine avoidance as a treatment for people who have been diagnosed with depression. 

In the general population, there is a link between caffeine consumption and mood. Several studies have found that moderate consumption of caffeine is linked to a lower risk of depression in adults. In children however, greater consumption of caffeine has been linked to more symptoms of depression. It is important to remember that while there may be a link between caffeine and mood, this does not mean that it is a causal link –  drinking less or more caffeine does not necessarily cause depression. There may be some other underlying factor that can explain this link, and caffeine might affect different people in different ways.

Are there any disadvantages?

For people who regularly consume caffeine, suddenly giving it up can produce withdrawal effects, such as headaches and feeling less alert.

Where do you get it?

Cutting down on coffee, tea and soft drinks is a simple treatment people can do by themselves. If you are concerned about your caffeine consumption, or feel that drinking caffeine could be making you feel anxious, you can discuss this with your GP.

Recommendation

Given the lack of evidence on caffeine avoidance, it cannot be recommended as a treatment for depression.

Key references

  • Benko CR, Farias AC, Farias LG, Pereira EF, Louzada FM, Cordeiro ML. Potential link between caffeine consumption and pediatric depression: A case-control study. BMC Pediatrics. 2011; 11(1): 1-5.
  • Christensen L, Burrows R. Dietary treatment of depression. Behavior Therapy. 1990; 21(2): 183-93.
  • Grosso G, Micek A, Castellano S, Pajak A, Galvano F. Coffee, tea, caffeine and risk of depression: A systematic review and dose–response meta‐analysis of observational studies. Molecular nutrition & food research. 2016; 60(1): 223-34.
  • Lucas M, Mirzaei F, Pan A, Okereke OI, Willett WC, O'Reilly EJ, et al. Coffee, caffeine, and risk of depression among women. Archives of internal medicine. 2011; 171(17): 1571-8.
  • Pham NM, Nanri A, Kurotani K, Kuwahara K, Kume A, Sato M, et al. Green tea and coffee consumption is inversely associated with depressive symptoms in a Japanese working population. Public health nutrition. 2014; 17(3): 625-33.
  • Ruusunen A, Lehto SM, Tolmunen T, Mursu J, Kaplan GA, Voutilainen S. Coffee, tea and caffeine intake and the risk of severe depression in middle-aged Finnish men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Public health nutrition. 2010; 13(8): 1215-20.
  • Wang L, Shen X, Wu Y, Zhang D. Coffee and caffeine consumption and depression: A meta-analysis of observational studies. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 2016; 50(3): 228-42.

Last updated and reviewed: 1 November 2019