LONDON — When it comes to alcohol, maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t exactly the main reason why most people drink. That being said, if you are looking for some guilt-free indulgence, red wine has long been considered among the healthiest of alcoholic beverages. Red wine has already been linked to a number of health benefits, including improved blood circulation, but a new study finds that people who drink red wine enjoy increased gut microbiota diversity (that’s a good thing) in comparison to non-drinkers.
Additionally, the study, conducted at King’s College London, shows that red wine drinkers were also associated with lower levels of “bad” cholesterol and obesity.
In short, gut microbiome plays a vital role in every human being’s overall health. For example, an imbalance of “good” or “bad” microbes in the gut can cause weight gain, a weakened immune system, and high cholesterol. A person’s gut is generally considered healthy if it is home to a large and diverse set of bacterial organisms.
Researchers from KCL’s Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology set out to investigate the effect of red wine, white wine, cider, beer, and liquor on the gut microbiome and overall health of 916 U.K.-born female twins. They found that red wine drinkers’ gut microbiomes were more diverse than participants who preferred other forms of alcohol.
“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,” explains Dr. Caroline Le Roy, the study’s first author, in a media release.
Red wine drinkers’ gut microbiota contained a larger number of different bacterial species compared to other participants, even across three additional population samples included in the study from the U.K., the U.S., and The Netherlands. This trend was still observed even after accounting for outside factors such as each participant’s age, weight, and socioeconomic status.
Researchers theorize that the polyphenols found in red wine may be causing this bacterial diversity. Polyphenols are naturally occurring defense chemicals found in many fruits and vegetables, and consequently, red wine. Polyphenols boast various benefits, such as antioxidants, and are believed to act as fuel for microbes found in the human body.
“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,” comments lead author Professor Tim Spector.
Researchers also found that red wine drinkers’ healthy gut microbiota promoted lower levels of obesity and “bad” cholesterol.
According to their findings, the study’s authors say just drinking red wine once every two weeks should be enough to promote a healthier gut.
“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,” Dr. Le Roy adds.
The study is published in the scientific journal Gastroenterology.