A new study from King’s College London suggests that drinking red wine can increase the bacterial diversity of the gut microbiome, which is a sign of improved gut health. The researchers also found that red wine consumers have lower rates of obesity and “bad” cholesterol.
The study was focused on the gut microbiome (GM) effects of beer, cider, red wine, white wine, and spirits among 916 female twins in the UK.
“While we have long known of the unexplained benefits of red wine on heart health, this study shows that moderate red wine consumption is associated with greater diversity and a healthier gut microbiota that partly explain its long debated beneficial effects on health,” explained study first author Dr. Caroline Le Roy.
The gut microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria and fungi that have a major influence on the body’s metabolism, weight, immune system, appetite, and mood. A growing collection of scientific evidence has shown that a larger variety of microorganisms in the gut community helps to protect against illness and disease.
The current study revealed that the gut microbiota of red wine consumers contained a greater number of bacterial species compared to non-consumers. Furthermore, this outcome was observed across two additional populations in the United States and the Netherlands, and was found to be consistent regardless of age, weight, regular diet, or socioeconomic status.
According to the researchers, the gut health benefits of red wine may be attributed to polyphenols, which have many beneficial properties like antioxidants. Polyphenols serve as a type of fuel for the microbes present in our system.
“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,” said study lead author Professor Tim Spector.
The study also demonstrated a link between red wine and lower levels of obesity and “bad” cholesterol.
“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,” said Dr. Le Roy. “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.”
The study is published in the journal Gastroenterology.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Dima Sobko