Could Italian Red Wine Help Treat Mental Disorders?

If you peruse the xtraWine blog for long enough, you’ll come across a number of articles that cover the many benefits that Italian red wine has for your health.

At this point, most people know that a glass of red wine per day has benefits for the heart. It also contains antioxidants that can protect you against some serious medical conditions, including strokes and, potentially, cancer.

But what about your mental state?

And no, we don’t mean in the sense that having a glass of red wine in the bath after a rough day will calm you down and make you feel better.

We mean that there may be something in red wine that could be used as an active treatment for mental disorders, such as depression.

It may sound far-fetched at first. How could something that’s essentially fermented grape juice have any potential for becoming a mood disorder treatment?

That’s where recent research comes in. According to some studies, there is a compound in red wine that could prove to be a useful ally in the fight against depression.

It’s called resveratrol.

The Compound That Cures

You may have read about resveratrol before. In fact, we’ve written about this compound on the very pages of our blog.

It’s essentially an antioxidant, which means that it’s capable of combating the signs of ageing. Resveratrol does battle against the free radicals in your body that damage cells and cause issues like wrinkles and skin sagging. It’s also likely that the compound plays a role in the heart-healing effects that red wine appears to have.

A study conducted jointly between the University at Buffalo and Xuzhou Medical University in China holds the details.

Published in the Neuropharmacology, the study took a closer look at the effects that resveratrol has on the brain.

Researchers discovered that the compound, which is found in many plants beyond grapes, has the ability to block the production of an enzyme that’s linked to stress. As such, it may be able to limit the effects that stress has on the brain.

It’s not too much of a leap to see how this could benefit those who struggle with anxiety or depression. Stress is a common factor in both cases and can exacerbate symptoms in those with these mental disorders.

For just one example, consider what stress does to your sleeping pattern. If you go to bed feeling stressed, you may find it very difficult to shut your brain off and go to sleep. That means you’re not getting as much sleep as you need to feel mentally alert and healthy the next day.

That fatigue piles more stress onto your shoulders as you start to worry about not getting enough sleep. Again, that stress sticks with you at night, making it harder to get to sleep.

It’s a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break.

And it can led to heightened feelings of anxiety or depression.

That’s just one example of the effects that stress can have on your mental state. And it’s why this breakthrough is so important.

According to the study’s co-lead author, Ying Xu:

“Resveratrol may be an effective alternative to drugs for treating patients suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.”

The Specific Findings

We mentioned the effects that resveratrol can have on a specific enzyme.

That enzyme is called phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4). Typically, the stress hormone corticosterone.

Your body uses corticosterone to help it to manage stress. Simply put, it’s your body’s response to stress in a similar way that white blood cells are a response to any viruses that make their way into your body.

The issue comes when you experience excessive amounts of stress, as you might if you get caught in the sleepless cycle that we described above. When this happens, your body produces too much of the hormone, which begins to circulate your brain. Researchers believe that this excess has direct links to depression and other mental disorders.

So, where does resveratrol fit into this?

The study, which was conducted on mice, discovered that resveratrol has the ability to inhibit the amount of PDE4 that your body produces.

The PDE4 enzyme essentially acts as an activator for the corticosterone stress hormone. Without it, the hormone doesn’t activate during times of extended stress, which could mean that your mental state won’t suffer as much due to your body have an excess of the hormone.

Of course, this is all very early speculation at the time of writing. As mentioned, this study was conducted on mice and we don’t yet have human studies to determine if resveratrol has the same effects on human production of corticosterone.

But the possibilities are certainly there. We imagine that the researchers next move will be to study the compound’s effects in humans.

And if it proves effective there, they may look into ways to process resveratrol so that it can be used in anti-depressive medication.

The Final Word

That idea is a long way off, of course. We’re still in the very early stages of discovering what potential resveratrol has in relation to mental disorders.

But the early signs are promising. Though the studies were conducted in mice, the hormones and enzymes work in the same way. That means there’s potential for resveratrol to have similar effects on humans. And anybody who’s ever felt more relaxed after drinking a glass of Italian red wine offer anecdotal evidence that something occurs when drinking it.

Here’s what we want to leave you with.

In the United States alone, 20% of adults struggle with depression. And in 2017, a little over 7% of people had at least one serious depressive episode.

There is no stigma attached to depression. It’s a serious ailment that affects millions of people every year.

Perhaps further research will show that resveratrol can’t provide another tool in the fight against the condition. 

But with the early signs being so promising, we can’t help but look forward to further studies.

Who knows? Perhaps Italy’s many red wine producers will become the latest additions to the front line in the battle against mental illness.


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