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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Could A Daily Dose Of Red Wine Reduce One's Risk Of Depression? 09-01

Could A Daily Dose Of Red Wine Reduce One's Risk Of Depression?

Tempranillo varietal wine bottle and glass, sh...  
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
An enticing new study   from BMC Medicine reports that people over 55 who drink a little alcohol, averaging about a glass – generally of wine – per day, are less likely to be clinically depressed than those who drink more and those who don’t drink at all. The study comes in direct contrast to many earlier studies   that have found an opposite effect: That drinking is more often associated with increased risk for depression. 
While are some legitimate reasons that wine could have some slight beneficial effects on depression risk, before you go picking up the habit if it’s not already there, it’s important to understand not only the reasons behind the connection, but also the risks involved.
The new study followed 5,000 Spanish men and women between 55 and 80 for about seven years, periodically querying them about their lifestyle habits via questionnaires and doctor visits. No one suffered from depression or alcohol use disorders at the beginning of the study. At the end of the seven years, about 443 people had become depressed.
It turned out that low-to-moderate alcohol consumption was linked to reduced risk of depression: People who drank between two and seven glasses of wine per week seemed to derive the greatest benefit, having a third the risk of being depressed as people who did not drink. Moderate drinkers also had lower risk of depression, but it wasn’t as large as the low-to-moderate group. 
The results held true even after multiple lifestyle factors were controlled for, such as smoking, marital status, age, physical activity level, and diet, which can all influence depression risk. Heavy drinkers seemed to have an increased risk of depression, although there were too few of these people in the study to say for sure.
If the connection really does exist, one explanation might have to do with the neuroprotective effects of the antioxidants in wine, like resveratrol, which has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. “Lower amounts of alcohol intake might exert protection in a similar way to what has been observed for coronary heart disease,” said author Miguel A. Martínez-González in a statement.
 “In fact, it is believed that depression and coronary heart disease share some common disease mechanisms.” The mechanisms Martínez-González mentions have to do with inflammation, which is known to be a central cause of heart disease, and there is increasing evidence for its role in depression   as well. The polyphenol antioxidants in wine could help repair inflammatory damage to the brain that has contributed to depression.
“Previous investigations suggest that the hippocampal complex may play a role in the development of major depression,” say the authors. “This neuroprotection applied to the hippocampus may prevent moderate wine drinkers from developing depression.”
Another explanation, which is unrelated to the content of wine, might have to do with social factors, which have long been known to influence depression risk. People who enjoy a glass of wine or two might be more likely to be doing so in a crowd of people. Write the authors, the study’s cohort “includes an older, traditional Spanish Mediterranean population, that consumed chiefly wine, and mainly in a context of socialization with family or friends.” Enjoying a rich social life has been well illustrated to reduced depression risk, and could easily influence the results seen here.
Finally, also important to keep in mind is the large body   of evidence suggesting that alcohol and depression are linked adversely, with one increasing the risk of the other. It may also be the case that some people, because of genes and environment, are predisposed to problems with both – so in essence there could be a third variable at play, which might increase one’s likelihood of alcohol use and of depression.
For all of these reasons, the results should be taken with caution. This is especially true since they were, after all, derived from a relatively restricted sample of people in a Spanish Mediterranean population, none of whom had ever had depression, and who were all over 55 years old. So how the results would relate, if at all, to a more inclusive sample is largely unknown.
As with most studies looking at a particular ingestible item – wine, coffee, sugar, fat – to look for a single answer is perhaps naïve. Alcohol does not likely reduce the risk of depression across the board, since there are so many other variables, like quantity, type, and existing health and mental health conditions.
 So the best advice might be that if you enjoy a glass of red wine every now and then, you might do well to continue for the health of your heart and brain. But if you’re not a fan, it’s not worth picking up the habit, since it carries with it a number of risks that just aren’t worth messing around with.

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