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What are chocolate, red wine and rats teaching us about depression?

Thanks to the hard work of researchers across the United States and around the world, we now understand significantly more about depression. For instance, just a few months ago Canadian researchers made the groundbreaking discovery that a diagnosis of depression was frequently accompanied by significant brain inflammation.

As if this wasn't fascinating enough, a team of researchers at the University of South Carolina recently used these findings to examine whether an ingredient found in both red wine and chocolate could help reduce this brain inflammation and, by extension, depressive symptoms.

Using a group of lab rats, the researchers examined the reaction of the smaller rats to the presence of a single larger rat who essentially acted like something of a bully.

Curiously, the researchers found that some of the rats were unaffected by the larger rat's antics and showed no signs of brain inflammation. Other rats, however, showed depressive symptoms and brain inflammation after being subjected to the larger rat's antics.

Armed with this knowledge, the researchers then proceeded to divide the depressed rats into two subgroups, one that received a placebo, and another that received multiple doses of resveratrol, which in addition to being found in both red wine and chocolate is also sold as a supplement.

Amazingly, they found that the rats treated with the resveratrol had no evidence of brain inflammation or depressive symptoms when compared with the group given a placebo.

While this study clearly is a long way from having practical application to human beings, it nevertheless serves to lay the groundwork for future clinical studies and further illustrates how we are slowly but surely learning more about depression, a condition that leaves thousands of Americans unable to work despite their best efforts.

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