Ever have those days where you are just beat down that all you want to do is reach for that bottle of red? When you feel that sipping a glass of wine seems to water down that sad feeling, science may just have the explanation to this.
It seems the good reputation that red wine earned has far overshadowed the fact that it is an alcoholic drink. A lot of studies have already been published to support this, and new ones continue to come out giving us more reasons to love the drink. From its ability to lower cholesterol, prevent cancer, and anti-aging action, wine also posses a host of heart healthy benefits more than any other alcohol. The latest to hit the press is how wine is able to keep depression at bay.
Red wine and Depression
Aside from a being a good companion to toast celebrations, wine can also be your buddy during the bad times. This may sound like the words to a country song, but it is actually a fact from a recent study from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. The research team discovered a link between inflammation and depression, which is a problem that affects around 148 million people in the United States. And they discovered how red wine is able to help curb the problem, although it does not replace existing pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic treatments.
So how did they find this out?
The team used rats and exposed them to social stress, which is known to be one of the major causes for psychiatric disorders. In what seemed like a social experiment straight from the halls of middle school, they exposed some rats to larger and more aggressive ones which play the role of the bully. We all know how this has been a problem for young kids, with some even resorting to suicide. The same effect can also be seen on the bullied rats, as they eventually show depressive-like behaviours and inflammation. In the control group, which comprised of rats that were not subjected to bullying, they found no such symptoms.
The research team then conducted another test where they added one more component, which was a daily dose of resveratrol for those rats that were bullied. Resveratrol is a component found in the skin of red grapes, and they gave a total amount that can be found in six glasses of wine. They gave this daily during the course of the study amounting to a total of 12 doses. On top of that, the researchers measured neuroinflammation and behaviours which show a loss of interest in activities that used to be pleasurable or rewarding.
After five days of stress exposure the research team observed that those rats that were given resveratrol were no longer showing anhedonic behaviour or inflammation. The opposite was observed in the group of rats that were only given a placebo instead of resveratrol.
Thanks to resveratrol
An explanation as to why resveratrol is able to create such results is because this compound possess anti-inflammatory properties. According to a Julie Finnell who is one of the members of the research team, they found that “administering resveratrol blocks the inflammation we would normally see in animal undergoing the bullying stress and brings it to control levels.”
However, these information does not mean that you now have a good excuse to drown yourself in wine when the bad times roll around. There may be a strong case that is being established between resveratrol and its anti-inflammatory potential in the brain and how it also improves depressive symptoms, but this is not reason enough to drink more than your healthy serving of wine.
There are also other sources of resveratrol, and another favorite that also possess this compound is chocolate. This may be the reason why wine and chocolate are just heavenly together, and now we have science to explain why this could be so – and that is thanks to resveratrol.
In other related studies
It turned out that this is not the first time that any research was done to look into wine and how it may improve depression. A Spanish study also looked into how the heart health action of wine can be translated into being beneficial for improving depressive symptoms. They came up with this theory because cardiovascular disease and depression share some physiological characteristics. They concluded that wine may help prevent depression but it may not help those who are already depressed.
However, this results does not mean that drinking wine can be a way out of falling into the pits of depression. In fact, this is what critics to the study pointed out. Dr. Harvey Finkel explained that, “Drinking is often a symptom of depression, likely an attempt at self-medication, and drawing a deeper significance from the conflation of the two seems to me untenable.”
Yes, I’m all for enjoying a good glass of wine, but if you want to ensure that you are only getting the benefits you must also learn to drink in moderation. Without delving deeper into the science of why this is so, let’s just simply say that too much of a good thing will no longer do you any good.
The benefits of wine in moderation
The problem now is how you define “drinking in moderation.” This seems to be a vague term because one man’s moderation could be another’s bacchanal, right?
After going through different sources and expert opinions, I learned that there are different guidelines to what is “moderate” drinking. This is if you are serious in drawing the line between getting the benefits to prevent depression from getting lost in a whirwind of alcohol binging. This is what we are being told is a healthy alcohol consumption:
- National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Men should not have more than 4 drinks per day ot a total of 14 every week. Meanwhile, women should not have more than 3 drinks a day or a total of 7 each week.
- American Heart Association
Men should not go beyond 2 units per day, and women should not exceed 1 unit per day.
- UK Health Department
Men should limit to no more than 3-4 units per day, and women should not have more than 2-3 units per day.
- The Department of Agriculture and Department of Health & human Services
Men should only have 2 drinks per day, and on drink per day for the ladies.
- Physician’s Advice
1-2-3 Rule, which means that you should have one drink a day, no more than two at a time, and no more than three days a week.
As this study is still in the process of refinement, let’s just stick to what is healthy. There is no harm in enjoying good wine, but also remember that no matter how rich and succulent that bottle of vintage may be, you need to watch your portions. Wine may give lift your spirits, but don’t take it too far that you’d end up nursing another problem in return.