Drink to that! Red wine compound could be key to better mental health treatment

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Researchers say an agent found in red wine may be beneficial for treating mental health issues. Source: Pexels

While many people like to unwind with a comforting glass of red in the evening, new research shows that a plant compound found in the tasty beverage may actually open the door for new treatments for mental health problems.

Known as resveratrol, researchers from the University of Buffalo in the United States believe the plant compound found in the skin and seeds of grapes and other berries could ease depression and anxiety because it blocks an enzyme linked to controlling stress in the brain.

The results shed light onto how resveratrol may impact neurological processes, with co-lead author Ying Xu saying: “Resveratrol may be an effective alternative to drugs for treating patients suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.”

More than 300 million people worldwide are impacted by depression, while 7.3 per cent of the global population are thought to be impacted by anxiety.

While previous research has linked resveratrol with antidepressant effects, the new study is one of the first to link it to an enzyme (phosphodiesterase 4) which is influenced by the stress hormone corticosterone. Corticosterone regulates the body’s response to stress. If a person becomes too stressed, excessive amounts of corticosterone can circulate in the brain, which can lead to the development of depression and other mental health issues.

At present, antidepressants focus on other functions in the brain such as serotonin to treat or manage mental health problems, but researchers say just a third of patients with depression enter full remission in response to these treatments.

In a study on mice, researchers found the phosphodiesterase 4 enzyme can lead to physical alterations in the brain, but that resveratrol may protective against the negative effects of corticosterone.

While the results sound promising, it’s not an excuse to guzzle as much booze as you’d like just yet. Alcohol has been linked to an array of serious health issues including cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer, nerve damage and respiratory conditions. Previous studies have also found the amount of wine people would need to drink to benefit from the included resveratrol would be unsafe.

It follows research released by the King’s British Heart Foundation Centre of Excellence earlier this year which found resveratrol could do wonders for lowering blood pressure because it can interact with a protein in the walls of the blood vessels and cause them to relax.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t the all clear to reach for the wine rack,” Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said at the time. “To get the human equivalent dose of resveratrol used here, you’d need to drink an impossible amount of red wine every day – which is both unfeasible and inadvisable.”

Instead, the study showed an unexpected way resveratrol works to lower blood pressure and how future medication could be developed in a similar way.

Always talk to a health professional if you’re struggling with your mental health or other health problems.

Do you know someone who’s been impacted by mental health issues? What treatment do they currently use?

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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