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A new study unravels the mechanism by which compounds found in grapes improve resilience to stress in mice and attenuate the brain changes linked with depression.
In new research, a combination of various grape and grape seed extracts is shown to reduce stress-induced depression.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, major depressive disorder, or clinical depression, is now “the leading cause of disability” among people between 15 and 44 years old in the United States.
Every year, more than 16 million U.S. adults are affected. This is the equivalent of around 6.7 percent of the country’s adult population.
Conventional drug treatments for depression are not particularly effective. In fact, the authors of the new study say that less than 50 percent of those diagnosed with depression experience temporary remission of the illness.
The need for alternative treatments is therefore dire. This is why the scientists — led by Giulio Maria Pasinetti, a professor of neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, NY — set out to investigate an alternative route for treating depression.
This route involves the potentially beneficial effect of compounds derived from grapes. Previous research has shown that so-called grape polyphenols have some efficacy in managing major depressive disorder, but the precise mechanisms behind this were unclear.
The new study by Prof. Pasinetti and his team explains this mechanism. The researchers tested the effect of a mix of three polyphenols derived from grapes in mice and published their results in the journal Nature Communications.
BDPP, inflammation, and synaptic plasticity
The mixture the researchers used is called a “bioactive dietary polyphenol preparation” (BDPP), and it is made of Concord grape juice, an extract from grape seeds, and trans-resveratrol.
In addition to testing BDPP, the researchers also tested the effect of two new phytochemicals that are derived from metabolizing BDPP.
Magic mushrooms: Treating depression without dulling emotions
This alternative treatment promises to succeed where conventional ones have failed.
Prof. Pasinetti and team administered BDPP to a group of mice that had been chronically stressed. They found that the preparation improved the mice’s resilience against stress-induced depression.
Specifically, the way that BDPP did this was by modulating the plasticity of the brain’s synapses, or the connections between neurons, and by modulating inflammation.
Previous experiments in which mice were chronically stressed had shown that “epigenetic and inflammatory mechanisms play important roles in mediating resilience and susceptibility to depression.”