Another reason to raise your wine glasses. New research from Kings College in London suggests that people who drink red wine in moderation may have a higher diversity of gut microbiota, a key sign of gut health, than those who don’t.
In a study of almost 3,000 drinkers in the US, the UK, and the Netherlands, researchers explored the effects of beer, cider, and both red and white wines on the gut microbiome, collectively the types of bacteria that live within our gastrointestinal system. In recent years, a number of studies have linked the gut microbiome to physical and mental health as well as food cravings and the efficacy of certain medications. They found that the red wine drinkers had a greater number of different bacterial species even when accounting for age, weight, regular diet, and socioeconomic status. The study is published in the journal Gastroenterology
“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 healthier gut microbiota that partly explain its long-debated beneficial effects on health,” said study author Caroline Le Roy in a statement.
It may have to do with active compounds found in red wine known as polyphenols. These chemicals are found in the skin of grapes and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may help fuel microbes living within our bodies. (Coincidentally, these same chemicals are found in other delicious things, like chocolate and coffee.) The researchers also noted lower levels of obesity and “bad” cholesterol in red wine drinkers.
“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,” added Le Roy.
The authors are quick to caution that self-reported alcohol consumption is often underestimated and was captured differently in the three groups. This made it difficult to control for different health considerations, especially since body mass index was the only common health factor available in all cohorts. Finally, the authors write that "cross-sectional and observational nature of this study, does not allow us to determine causal relationships between red wine drinking, GM composition, and health."
Nicknamed the “French Paradox”, the scientific community has spent a fair amount of time exploring just how “good” wine may be. Of course, the study at-hand only explored the benefits of red wine when compared with other types of wine, cider, and beer – but what about those who don’t drink alcohol? A large-scale study published in 2018 found that there is no “safe level” of alcohol to drink and quitting alcohol has even been linked to the health and well-being of women. To that, the researchers say everything in moderation.