Study finds that depression is connected to inflammation - and how to treat it

August 27, 2015
Volume 12    |   Issue 35

Depression affects around 148 million people (that is about 47% of the population) in the United States. So researchers are always seeking to learn more about both its causes and its treatment options. They've recently found a connection between depression and inflammation. That's good news because we already know quite a bit about how to combat inflammation. But these researchers wanted to find out if a well-known nutrient can help treat both the inflammation and the depression.

Researchers at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine investigated the effects of the natural anti-inflammatory agent resveratrol on depression.

Resveratrol is commonly found in the skin of red grapes and other fruits, such as blueberries, and it offers a number of health benefits. For this particular study, researchers used resveratrol in rats who had been subjected to social stress, which is commonly linked to depression in humans.

To stimulate social stress in the rats, the team exposed rats to a larger, more aggressive rat, who acted as a "bully." Some of the rats developed both symptoms of depression and inflammation, while other rats developed neither. This helped confirm the link between depression and inflammation.

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Then they repeated the experiment. But this time, they gave the bullied rats resveratrol. The amount they gave them was about the amount you would find in six glasses of wine. They found that the resveratrol helped prevent inflammation in the rats' brains and also kept them from exhibiting depressive symptoms.

Doctoral student Julie Finnell explained, "Resveratrol appears to knock down inflammation throughout the body. We found that administering resveratrol blocks the inflammation we would normally see in animals undergoing the bullying stress and brings it to control levels. We saw that consistently with many of the inflammatory markers that we analyzed."

The findings are particularly exciting because they showed that resveratrol can affect the brain in particular, not just the body in general. Study leader Dr. Susan Wood is excited about the findings, but cautions that right now they've only been conducting animal studies. She says, "Certainly, there is a strong case being built now between clinical and preclinical work that inflammation is linked to depressive symptoms, and there is a great need for these findings to be validated in human studies."

Right now, they're keeping their focus on the rats. They're hoping to discover next whether resveratrol can help reverse the effects of social stress, not just prevent them.

Of course, I don't want you to start drinking six glasses of wine every night!  But if you do enjoy wine, keep it to just one glass, and choose a red wine to enjoy some of the benefits of resveratrol. You can also add grapes and berries to your diet and take a resveratrol supplement, such as Advanced Resveratrol Formula, to gain some of resveratrol's anti-inflammatory benefits. However, as you may know, if you are or believe you are struggling with depression, be sure to speak with your doctor.

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