The link between drinking moderate amounts of wine and lowering your risk of heart disease is well-known, but a new study is pointing to a possible mental health benefit of vino. While analyzing the influence of the Mediterranean diet on heart disease, Spanish researchers found that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol lowered the risk of depression by as much as 32%! An interesting find, especially considering that the results directly contradict previous studies connecting alcohol consumption to an increased risk of depression.
Wine and Depression
Drinking and depression is a hot topic among researchers. Research has remained pretty consistent—excessive alcohol consumption increases one’s risk for depression. Often, people drink more to subdue their depression and depend on the high of alcohol to cope. What scientists found this time around, however, is that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may just protect your mental health.
The study followed 5500 men and women between the ages of 55 and 80 for seven years. Participants were healthy, with no prior history of depression and no drinking problems. Researchers didn’t limit their findings to the Mediterranean diet and heart health, but also investigated the correlation between wine and depression. Scientists have long hypothesized that depression and heart disease share some of the same risk factors and mediator mechanisms. Turns out their hunch was correct. During the seven-year time span, 443 people were diagnosed with depression. Individuals who drank two to seven small glasses of wine (or 5-15 grams per day on average) were 32% less likely to develop depression than were people who drank no alcohol at all. Even after researchers isolated influential life factors such as gender, marital status, physical activity levels, smoking habits and dietary choices, the results held up.
Lead researcher Dr. Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, a cardiologist and professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, attributes the difference in results to the selective sample used. The study did not account for individuals with prior mental health or alcohol issues. The sample could have carried a low risk for depression due to these factors, as well as age factors since the sample was made up of seniors only. It is more than likely that those with a proclivity toward excessive alcohol consumption, as well as those with a history of depression, would not bring about the same results.
When Wine Goes to Your Head
Scientists are unsure exactly how wine may protect against depression, but Dr. Martinez-Gonzalez theorizes that it may be due to an anti-inflammatory compound in grapes. Inflammation in certain areas of the brain has been cited as a possible instigator of depression, and researchers propose that moderate amounts of wine may calm these inflamed regions. Wine also interacts with GABAA receptors (chemical messengers dispersed throughout the brain) that may defend against and reverse the effects of depression.
Remember: When consuming alcohol, moderation is key. If you’re truly interested in nourishing your mental health, two glasses of red wine (just 9 grams of alcohol per glass!) a week is all it takes.