A new study found that people who drank red wine had more bacterial diversity in their guts — which is seen as a sign of better gut health — compared to non-drinkers. Red wine drinkers also showed lower levels of obesity and ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Researchers at King’s College London studied the association between gut microbiome and general health in a group of 916 British female twins who either drank beer, cider, red wine, white wine, or spirits. Additionally, there were three other cohorts in the UK, the U.S., and the Netherlands, bringing the total study participants to over 4,000.
Gut bacteria + red wine = <3
People tend to see bacteria as harmful and potentially dangerous to our health — but that is not necessarily so.
The gut microbiota (also called the gut microbiome, and previously called the gut flora) is the name given to the microbe population living in our intestine. Our gut is home to trillions of microorganisms from hundreds of different species, totaling 3 million genes — 150 times more than human genes. Each one of us carries around 2% of our overall body weight in bacteria
In general, scientists believe that the higher the number of different bacterial species in a person’s gut, the better the health outcomes. And this is exactly what they found for people who consumed red wine. Those who drank beer, white wine, or spirits did not show a more diverse gut microbiome.
“Although we observed an association between red wine consumption and the gut microbiota diversity, drinking red wine rarely, such as once every two weeks, seems to be enough to observe an effect. If you must choose one alcoholic drink today, red wine is the one to pick as it seems to potentially exert a beneficial effect on you and your gut microbes, which in turn may also help weight and risk of heart disease. However, it is still advised to consume alcohol with moderation,” said Dr. Caroline Le Roy from King’s College London, first author of the study.
The reason why red wine may improve gut health may be due to the many polyphenols it contains. Polyphenols are natural compounds also present in fruits and vegetables which have many beneficial properties — they’re a great source of antioxidants, for instance — and may act as a fuel source for the gut bacteria.
“This is one of the largest ever studies to explore the effects of red wine in the guts of nearly three thousand people in three different countries and provides insights that the high levels of polyphenols in the grape skin could be responsible for much of the controversial health benefits when used in moderation,”Professor Tim Spector from King’s College London said in a statement.