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November 2020 (Vol. 5 Issue 8)

Red wine could be good for asthma—and even depression
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Red wine could be good for asthma—and even depression image

Some good news about red wine this week: it could be an effective alternative to antibiotics for treating diseases of the upper respiratory tract and lungs, such as bronchitis, asthma, middle ear infections and lung diseases—and, used carefully, it could also be a way of defeating depression.

But there’s a warning that comes with drinking wine: another study has shown that even moderate imbibing can alter the structure of the heart, which raises the risk of atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat).

Red wine’s ‘magic’ ingredient, resveratrol, combats bacteria associated with a range of upper respiratory tract problems that are usually treated with antibiotics. It controls inflammation that the bacterial pathogens cause, and which create the distressing symptoms of the diseases.

It could be a break-through discovery, say researchers from Georgia State University. Asthma causes 250,000 deaths in the US alone every year, while asthma and lung diseases are the third major killer—and yet the over-use of antibiotics is helping create the super-bug, resistant to the drugs.

So red wine or grapes—or more exactly the resveratrol in them—could be a natural way to treat the conditions.

More controversially, red wine—and alcohol in general—could be used as an antidepressant. But it’s a delicate line to walk, say researchers from the Wake Forest Baptists Medical Center, because depression and alcohol are so inter-twined.

They’ve discovered that alcohol follows the same neural pathways that antidepressant drugs take. One strong shot of alcohol can relieve depressive symptoms for 24 hours they reckon, and it has the same biological effect as an antidepressant such as Ketamine.

The biological changes have been seen in animal tests, and so the mechanism seems real enough. The problem is that when it comes to humans, is one drink ever enough?

And there’s another warning about drinking. Researchers have found that even moderate drinking can alter the physical structure of the heart in ways that increase the risk of atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat, which itself is a risk factor for stroke.

Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) were surprised that drinking even one glass of wine a day started to change the structure of the heart, and particularly its left atrium. They monitored the hearts of more than 5,000 adults, aged up to their late 60s, who said they were drinking one glass of wine a day. During the 10 years of the study, eight out of every 100 participants developed atrial fibrillation, and the researchers reckoned the risk increased by 5 per cent for every extra drink a day.

But countering that, the researchers admit, other studies have shown that moderate drinking reduces the risk of heart disease—but, clearly, not of atrial fibrillation.


(Sources: inflammation study: Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 34445; antidepressants study: Nature Communications, 2016; 7: 12867; atrial fibrillation study: Journal of the American Heart Association, 2016; 5: e004060)

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