An international team of scientists from Portugal, the United States and Brazil studied how caffeine could reduce the impact of stress on the brain. Associate Professor Rodrigo Cunha from Portugal’s University of Coimbra said his team put some mice under stress.
Mice subjected to stressful situations day in day out, quickly became anxious and lost their appetite.
They also suffered memory problems and showed signs of helplessness.
But adding caffeine to their drinking water before putting them under pressure stopped most of the symptoms from developing.
The University of Coimbra research is important because, in people, constant stress raises the odds of being diagnosed with depression.
“If the animal is not stressed there isn’t a very evident change in physiological parameters or behaviour,” he said.
“However, if you introduce changes to the lifestyle of the animals, what we see is they cope much better.”
Cunha and his team found caffeine blocked a stress-related chemical and prevented associated issues such as memory loss.
Professor Cunha said previous studies had found caffeine could help to reduce depression, but it was not clear whether it was the act of buying caffeine or the caffeine itself which cheered people up.
“This study was the first to establish a causal link,” he said.
However, Cunha also said humans had very different brains to mice and that further investigation was needed.