The prevalence of psychiatric disorders is increasing worldwide, which underscores the importance of increasing research in this field, in terms of better detection, prevention based on improvement of lifestyle and diet, and effectiveness of treatment. Increasing evidence suggest that diet and exercise can affect proper neuronal development and physiology and protect the brain from neurological illnesses or injuries. Of note, cocoa, tea, and coffee are being actively investigated because they are rich in (poly)phenolic compounds that can modulate mental health, namely brain plasticity, behavior, mood, depression, and cognition.
We here systematically review human studies conducted on tea, cocoa, and coffee as related to affective disorders such as depression and anxiety. We carried out a systematic literature search in April 2016, using MEDLINE, on data from the last 10 years. After screening 955 articles, we selected 17 articles that met the criteria of being human studies and that used whole foods or their components.
The results of our systematic review indicate that consumption of tea, cocoa, or coffee might have protective effects against depression.
Even though this is encouraging, it should be underscored that the near totality of the current evidence comes from observational studies. Ad-hoc human trials and mechanistic, basic science studies are needed before we can provide sound advice to the public.