European experts discuss the relationship between coffee, mood and emotion

March 29, 2017

The Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) has today published an expert roundtable report examining the relationship between coffee, mood and emotion, featuring input from independent European researchers.

The report is accompanied by a new animated video that asks whether mood and emotion can be influenced by food and beverage intake, outlining the available scientific research that suggests caffeine and coffee may play a role in feelings such as alertness, pleasantness, and anxiety levels.

Topics covered in the expert report include:

  • The scientific differences between definitions of ‘mood’ and ‘emotion’: moods are relatively long-lasting, ranging from a few hours to several months1,2; while emotions are relatively short-lived, lasting only seconds or minutes2,3.
  • The recognised scientific connection between moderate caffeine intake and improved alertness and attention (concentration): the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that a cause and effect relationship can be established between a 75mg serving of caffeine (a typical cup of coffee contains around 75-100mg caffeine) and both increased attention and alertness4.
  • Why the amount and frequency of coffee intake is important: research has suggested that a repeated intake of 75mg of caffeine (approximately 1 cup of coffee) every 4 hours confirmed a pattern of sustained improvement of mood over the day. However, high levels of coffee consumption can increase tense arousal, including anxiety, nervousness, and jitteriness5.
  • Expectation and belief: research has shown that study participants who believed they were drinking a caffeinated beverage, but were actually drinking a non-caffeinated beverage, showed an increase in subjective alertness. In other words, participants’ alertness increased simply because they believed they were drinking caffeine6,7.
  • Why people experience coffee differently: research comparing regular coffee drinkers and non-drinkers has suggested that higher coffee intakes will cause different levels of jitteriness8-10. A person’s genotype group may also help determine how they react to coffee; research has shown that people with a certain genetic variation experience an increase in anxiety following coffee consumption11.
  • The potential mechanisms behind coffee’s effect on mood: Caffeine plays a recognised role in the effect of coffee on alertness: however, other compounds may also be involved in coffee’s effects on mood. Compounds called polyphenols are of particular interest to researchers, as they are believed to have an antioxidant effect12.
  • Coffee consumption may have an impact on depression risk: a systematic review of observational studies suggests that the risk of developing depression decreases with moderate intake of coffee (equivalent to approximately 3-5 cups a day)13.

The experts who contributed to the report were:

  • Dr Crystal Haskell-Ramsay: Senior Research Fellow and Associate Director of the Brain, Performance and Research Centre at Northumbria University (UK)
  • Dr Géraldine Coppin: Senior Researcher and lecturer in affective psychology at the University of Geneva and at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences (Switzerland)
  • Dr Giuseppe Grosso: Research Fellow at the Integrated Cancer Registry, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Policlinico Vittorio Emanuele (Italy)

Overall, moderate consumption of coffee – typically (400 mg) equivalent to 3-5 cups per day based on the European Food Safety Authority’s review of caffeine safety14 – has been associated with a range of desirable physiological effects in scientific literature and can fit within a healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle15.



  1. Frijda N.H., ‘Moods, emotion episodes and emotions’ in Lewis M., Haviland J.M. (eds.), Handbook of Emotions, New York, Guildford Press, 1993, pp. 381-403.
  2. Scherer K.R. (2005) What are emotions? And how can they be measured? Soc Sci Info, 44(4): 695–729.
  3. Coppin G., & Sander D., ‘Theoretical approaches to emotion and its measurement’ in Meiselman H. L. (ed.), Emotion Measurement, Oxford, Elsevier, 2016, pp. 3-30.
  4. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) (2011) Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to caffeine and increased fat oxidation leading to a reduction in body fat mass (ID 735, 1484), increased energy expenditure leading to a reduction in body weight (ID 1487), increased alertness (ID 736, 1101, 1187, 1485, 1491, 2063, 2103) and increased attention (ID 736, 1485, 1491, 2375) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/20061. EFSA Journal, 9(4):2054.
  5. Nehlig A. (2010) Is Caffeine a Cognitive Enhancer? J Alzheimers Dis, 20(S1):85-94.
  6. Schneider R. et al. (2006) Effects of expectation and caffeine on arousal, well-being, and reaction time. Int J Behav Med, 13(4):330-9.
  7. Alford C. et al. (2008) All in the cup or all in the mind – the effects of caffeine and belief of caffeine consumption on sleep and waking. In: Proceedings of the British Psychological Society, 2008. Available from: C.F. et al. (2005). Cognitive and mood improvements of caffeine in habitual consumers and habitual non-consumers of caffeine. Psychopharmacol, 179(4):813-25.
  8. Haskell C.F. et al. (2005). Cognitive and mood improvements of caffeine in habitual consumers and habitual non-consumers of caffeine. Psychopharmacol, 179(4):813-25.
  9. Goldstein A. et al (1969) Psychotropic effects of caffeine in man. IV. Quantitative and qualitative differences associated with habituation to coffee. Clin Pharmacol Ther, 10(4)489-497.
  10. Kennedy D. & Haskell C. (2011) Cerebral blood flow and behavioural effects of caffeine in habitual and non-habitual consumers of caffeine: A near infrared spectroscopy study. Biological Psychology, 86(3):298-306
  11. Alsene K. et al. (2003) Association between A2a receptor gene polymorphisms and caffeine induced anxiety. Neurosychopharmacol, 28:1694-1702.
  12. Dias G. et al. (2012) The Role of Dietary Polyphenols on Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis: Molecular Mechanisms and Behavioural Effects on Depression and Anxiety. Ox Med Cell Long, (3509):541971.
  13. Grosso G. et al. (2016) Coffee, tea, caffeine and risk of depression: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of observational studies. Mol Nut Food Res, 60(1):223-3.
  14. EFSA (2015) Scientific Opinion on the Safety of Caffeine. EFSA Journal, 13(5):4102.
  15. ISIC, ‘Coffee as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle’. Available at

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