Red Wine Compound (but not the Wine Itself) Could Help Your Depression or Anxiety

The debate over the health benefits of red wine continue this week as a new study suggests that the active compound found in red wine could actually be quite effective at relieving the symptoms of anxiety and depression.  According to researchers out of the University at Buffalo—in collaboration with Chinese researchers at Xuzhou Medical University—chemical compounds in resveratrol possess the ability to control an enzyme in the brain that is associated with stress.  

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that roughly 16 and 40 million people suffer from depression and anxiety, respectively, in the United States. Co-lead author and UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences resaerch associate professor Ying Xu simply comments, “Resveratrol may be an effective alternative to drugs for treating patients suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.”

Furthermore, the team explains that resveratrol has consistently demonstrated beneficial properties to human health.  Also, resveratrol is found in great abundance in the skins of grapes and berries. Essentially, then, the researchers explain that resveratrol is a “natural, non-flavonoid polyphenol found in red wine, which has numerous pharmacological properties including anti-stress and antidepressant-like abilities.”  

Specifically, the research notes the chemical compound plays a role in the influence of the enzyme phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) which, in turn, influences the stress hormone corticosterone.  Essentially, cortisol and corticosterone are released into the body as a stress response; excessive stress, though, can lead to excess release of this hormone, which eventually reaches the brain and leads to physical expression of anxiety and depression.  

This discovery is novel, of course, because the most common—and, likely, most effective—treatments we currently have for depression and anxiety tend to target the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline. Xu notes that at least one out of every three patients with anxiety/depression symptoms can benefit from a drug that modulates these neurotransmitters. 

Thus, the discovery that resveratrol can help reverse the effects of PDE4 expression and, in turn, provide a neuroprotective effect, is certainly profound. That said, of course, the researchers make sure to advise that while resveratrol certainly has health benefits, these effects do not necessarily translate to red wine consumption, as alcohol carries its own health risks that could essentially negate the benefits of resveratrol.

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