The Truth About Red Wine’s Ability to Lower Stress and Treat Depression

People clinking glasses of red wine
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If your favorite way to unwind at the end of the week (or, let’s face it, day) is a glass of red wine, there’s some new evidence that suggests it really is helping to improve your mood. But don’t go pouring another glass just yet…

Researchers used mice to test the impact resveratrol—a plant compound found in the skin and seeds of berries and grapes—has on the brain. The university has been testing it for several years after discovering it blocks a certain enzyme in the brain that spurs depression and anxiety, effectively lowering stress and boosting mood.

In the study, led by the University of Buffalo, researchers gave mice 10mg of resveratrol (via capsules) to counteract the effects of the enzyme phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4). The mice did not get wine-drunk for this experiment, as there’s not enough resveratrol in red wine for the compound’s depression-diminishing properties to kick in. So while you’ve seen headlines touting a glass of red wine’s ability to ease depression and anxiety, that’s not quite true. Yes, the resveratrol inhibited PDE4, but it’s not exactly the cure-all wine enthusiasts might have hoped for.

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Of all the foods known to have significant levels of resveratrol, red wine has some of the lowest (white wine has even lower). To get your recommended therapeutic amount of resveratrol in a day—just 1 gram, the study says—via wine, you would have to drink hundreds if not thousands of liters. To be clear, that would kill you. Even cutting out the middleman and going straight to the source (i.e. red grapes), would mean eating about 1,700 pounds of grapes.

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And while capsules are the best way to get resveratrol into the body, don’t run to the supermarket to pick up supplements. Until more tests are performed with the compound, not much is known about its effects on humans (remember, this study was done on mice). However, resveratrol could have a bright pharmacological future in treating depression, says Ying Xu, M.D., co-author of the study and research associate professor at the University of Buffalo.

In the meantime, try these 20 science-backed ways to reduce stress.

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