It is commonly believed that a little bit of red wine is good for the heart. Several scientific studies have looked into the assumed benefits of red wine and have shown that compounds in red wine may benefit depression or oral health. Drinking red wine in moderation seems to have a lot of hidden therapeutic potential; now, a new study has linked consumption of red wine to better gut health as well.
This new observational study was conducted by Dr Caroline Le Roy and her team from King’s College, London (United Kingdom) and the results were published in the journal Gastroenterology. The team of researchers started by examining the gut health of red wine drinkers and compared it with that of people who drank other types of alcohol. They explored the effects of beer, cider, red wine, white wine and spirits on the gut micro-biome and subsequent health in a group of 916 female twins from UK.
The results indicated that the gut micro-biome of red wine drinkers was more diverse compared to that of non-red wine drinkers. This was not observed with white wine, beer or spirits consumption. Micro-biome is the collection of micro-organisms in an environment and plays an important role in human health. An imbalance of ‘good’ microbes compared to ‘bad’ ones in the gut can lead to adverse health outcomes, such as reduced immune system, weight gain or high cholesterol. Greater bacterial diversity is, generally, a sign of better gut health.
Researchers were also diligent in their analysis by accounting for potential confounders such as age, weight, diet and socio-economic status. After considering all these factors, the researchers still saw an association between bacterial diversity and red wine consumption.
A detailed analysis of the collected data indicated that red wine drinkers had a higher number of various bacteria in their guts, lower rates of obesity and lower levels of cholesterol than non-red wine drinkers. The researchers confirmed these findings over three different groups based in the UK, The Netherlands and the United States.
“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 micro-biota that partly explains its long debated beneficial effects on health,” said Dr Le Roy.
Professor Tim Spector, from King’s College, London, added his thoughts on the significance of the findings by suggesting that poly-phenols could be responsible for red wine’s benefits. “This is one of the largest ever studies to explore the effects of red wine in the guts of nearly 3,000 people in three different countries and provides insights that the high levels of poly-phenols in the grape skin could be responsible for much of the controversial health benefits when used in moderation.”
Poly-phenols are the naturally occurring defence chemicals found in plants. Fruits and vegetables are naturally very rich in poly-phenols which are, in turn, full of antioxidants that fight off cell damage. Poly-phenols may play a part in fuelling the beneficial micro-organisms that live in our guts. Studies in the past have suggested that poly-phenols may help protect against a range of cardio-metabolic conditions, such as obesity, type-2 diabetes or heart disease.
However, researchers have also cautioned that theirs was an observational study; this means that they cannot confirm that it is the red wine that causes this beneficial effect on the micro-biota. They also point out that moderation is the key.
“Although we observed an association between red wine consumption and the gut micro-biota 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,” explained Dr Le Roy.