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06 Sep 2019

Latest research out of King’s College London says red wine could be good for the gut because it increases the number of different types of helpful bacteria that can live there.

A mere glass of red a fortnight is enough to make a difference though, so the findings are no excuse to binge drink.

The research team at Kings say the benefits are likely to come from polyphenols –  compounds that white wine, beer and cider have far less of. Polyphenols are also found in many fruits and vegetables.

Polyphenols, such as resveratrol in the skin of red grapes, are micronutrients that are thought to have beneficial properties and act as a fuel for useful microbes living inside the bowel. Human guts contain trillions of bacteria and other micro-organisms and this community of ‘friendly’ bugs helps keep people healthy.

A growing body of research suggests small changes to microbiota can make people more susceptible to illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease and obesity and may even affect moods and mental health. Diets, lifestyles and some types of medication upset this finely balanced gut ecosystem.

The study, published in the journal Gastroenterology, looked at thousands of people living in the UK, the US and the Netherlands. The participants were all twins enrolled in health research programs and were asked about their diet and how much and what type of alcohol they typically drank.

The gut microbiota of red wine drinkers was more diverse than that of non-red wine drinkers. Gut bug diversity increased the more red wine a person consumed, although occasional drinking – one glass a week or fortnight – appeared to be sufficient. None of the participants was a heavy drinker.

The researchers stressed that heavy consumption was not recommended and would probably have a bad effect on gut bugs, as well as on a person’s general health.

“This is an observational study so we cannot prove that the effect we see is caused by red wine,” said researcher Dr Caroline 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.

“You do not need to drink every day and it is still advised to consume alcohol with moderation.

“We are starting to know more and more about gut bacteria. It is complex, and we need more research, but we know that the more diversity there is, the better it appears to be for our health.”



Published: 06 Sep 2019