The medical benefits of drinking red wine have long been associated with a healthy heart, but, in light of a recent study’s findings, the delicious alcoholic beverage could also fight off the blues of depression.
The cardioprotective influence of wine is derived from a number of key chemical components found within grapes, which serve an antioxidant role. Catechin, epicatechin, proanthocyanidins (found within grape seeds) and resveratrol (found within grape skins) are all thought to provide an antioxidant function, whilst some of the alcoholic constituents are also considered to be of some benefit.
However, a scientific study performed by a group of Spanish researchers indicates that a moderate intake of wine could also offer some form of protection against mental health problems and depression.
Dr. Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, who chairs the Department of Preventative Medicine and Public Health at the University of Navarra, had this to say about the benefits of alcohol:
“One drink a day, preferentially wine, may help prevent depression… Depression and heart disease seem to share some common mechanisms because they share many similar protective factors and risk factors.”
However, Martinez-Gonzalez offers words of extreme caution over the matter, stating that alcohol consumption is not a recommended strategy for treating mental disorders or depression. For those individuals already drinking alcohol, he suggests substituting other alcoholic beverages for wine to enjoy the health benefits that the grape-based drink can impart.
The study followed over 5,500 wine drinkers, who were categorized as either being “light” or “moderate” drinkers, analyzing their mental health and physical well-being, with the aid of interviews and questionnaires. The participants, who were aged between 50 and 80, were followed over the course of seven years. Before the study’s initiation, none of the subjects had demonstrated any history of depression or alcohol-related issues.
Ultimately, even when taking into consideration the influence of additional factors (e.g. smoking, diet, marriage), there was a strong correlation between depression and consumption of wine. Specifically, those individuals who had a weekly intake of between two and seven beverages were less likely to suffer from depression, relative to non-drinkers.
As yet, a mechanism explaining wine’s capacity to fight off depression has not yet been established. However, Martinez-Gonzalez speculates that drinking red wine, containing some of the compounds within the grapes, could impede inflammatory processes associated with mental illness and those depression blues.
Looking at some of the broader effects of this alcoholic drink, wine consumers experience an increase in high density lipoproteins (HDLs), which provides cardiovascular protection; this defense is bolstered by a concomitant elevation in the destruction of harmful low density lipoproteins (LDLs). A recent study into the influence of resveratrol implicated the compound in its ability to reduce chronic inflammation, improve platelet function and prevent clogging of the arteries.
Overall, wine can reduce illness and death caused by cardiovascular disease, as well as lung and prostate cancers. Some of the components of wine have also been implicated in protecting against Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, as well as certain infectious pathogens (links to these studies and reviews are included, below).
Of course, it must be stressed, hitting the correct balance is essential. The study indicates a single glass of red wine could help alleviate the symptoms of depression. The effects of intense and persistent alcohol consumption are already well documented, including cirrhosis, neurological damage, reproductive issues, pancreatitis and an increased risk of developing various forms of cancer.
In addition, a number of scientific experts remain unconvinced by the evidence presented from the report. According to Fox News, Susan Ramsey, a psychiatry professor working at Brown University, suggested these data conflict with that of several other studies.
For example, a recent study performed by Boden and Fergusson, of the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, suggests a relationship between increased alcohol consumption and depression. Based upon their epidemiological studies, the pair suggest neuropsychological and metabolic changes to potentially result from alcohol exposure.
Ramsey goes on to question the means by which depression was gauged, as well as the highly selective nature of the study’s population sample, none of whom suffered from depression or alcohol problems and were all over the age of 50. Ramsey draws similar conclusions to Martinez-Gonzalez:
“At this point, it would be premature to make any recommendations regarding alcohol or wine consumption as a means of preventing the onset of depression.”
So, if you were already reaching for that bottle of wine, in the hope of warding off the blues of depression, you might want to reconsider. However, the general consensus still remains, drinking red wine can offer at least some health gains and, if you already imbibe in alcohol, it certainly seems like the best option.
By: James Fenner