Two compounds found in red wine, dark chocolate, coffee, grapes, and blueberries can be used to treat depression, according to a study published earlier this year by Georgia Hodes of the School of Neuroscience.
The finding does not mean that people who suffer from depression should gorge bars of dark chocolate or red wine as self-treatment. The amounts of the compounds — dihydrocaffeic acid (commonly referred to as DHCA) and malvidin-3'-O-glucoside (common name, Mal-gluc) — are too small in the foods and drink, making the effect nil through any acceptable human diet.
Rather, the study used the compounds themselves combined and administered in lab experiments on mice via drinking water. The study has not been attempted on people yet and would need to be tested for safety and efficacy in humans and then go to clinical trial, according to Hodes, the study’s co-author, an assistant professor of neuroscience.
“Our hope is that we can develop a new treatment for depression that directly modifies physiological targets we know are altered in depressive patients and by animal models,” said Hodes. “All current treatments for depression were discovered by chance. They were testing them for other purposes and found out that they made people feel better. Here we are creating a new treatment that is based on what we know goes wrong in humans and animal models in both the brain and the body.”
“This is a new way of thinking about treating depression,” Hodes said. “The compound we developed works by targeting inflammation in the body and plasticity in the brain. We took this approach because these are factors that we know are altered by depression in humans. This is one of the first compounds that was developed to directly alter identified molecular mechanisms of depression.”
She added: “One of the things I think is really important about this study was that we used two different animal models of depression, one in males and one in females, and the compound was equally effective in both sexes. Most studies still do not include females even though there is a higher incidence of depression in women than men.”
Hodes contributed to the work while she was a post-doctoral researcher at the Friedman Brain Institute at Mount Sinai in New York.