Written by Gina Wren
Look, us mere mortals never really get to find out what is going on in the world of science, well, not unless it’s (sometimes) sensationalised in the press. So, we wanted to bring you a snapshot of the latest science to whet your appetite to find out more if it’s something that piques your interest, or simply to keep you all in the “gut world” loop. Remember most of the studies are VERY new science, so keep your critical thinking cap on!
Our report is brought to you by our student research squad who have their ears to the lab floor ground to keep us all informed.
A new study suggests that drinking red wine could lead to a healthier gut! The study found that people who drank the occasional glass of red wine had increased gut microbiota diversity (more species to you and us) – which is a sign of good gut health – as well as reduced levels of obesity and ‘bad’ cholesterol. But let’s remember the risks that also come with alcohol consumption and moderation is always key.
Type of study
Researchers at King’s College London investigated 916 pairs of female twins. They set out to explore the effects of wine, beer and spirit consumption on the gut microbiome (the trillions of microorganisms living in our gut).
Alcohol consumption was measured by self-reported questionnaires where average food intake and alcohol units consumed per month were recorded. The gut microbiome was analysed and BMI, cholesterol levels, and blood glucose levels were measured.
A higher number of bacterial species in the gut microbiome (diversity) is considered a sign of good gut health. The study found that red wine drinkers had a more diverse gut microbiome compared to non-drinkers and compared to their twins who drank less. This effect was not observed for other alcoholic drinks, including white wine. The results could be attributed to the high polyphenol content of red wine. Polyphenols have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which are beneficial for gut health. Polyphenols aren’t just found in red wine but lots of other foods too, like chocolate and green tea.
Those who consumed red wine were also found to have lower levels of obesity and ‘bad’ cholesterol than their counterparts, perhaps mediated by their gut microbiota.
The study suggests that red wine may promote gut microbiome diversity and other health benefits. However, more studies that investigate the mechanism of red wine consumption on gut microbiome diversity are needed before solid conclusions can be drawn.
It is important to remember that high levels of alcohol consumption are linked with an increased risk of health problems. If you do choose to drink alcohol, red wine in moderation may be your healthiest option. The occasional glass of red wine, such as once every two weeks, was enough to observe the beneficial effect seen in this study. With that said, you can also get the beneficial polyphenols from a range of other foods such as fruits, vegetables, green tea, and dark chocolate. So, don’t just be drinking red wine when you could be eating chocolate too!
Caroline I. Le Roy, Philippa M. Wells, Jiyeon Si, Jeroen Raes, Jordana T. Bell, Tim D. Spector. Red Wine Consumption Associated With Increased Gut Microbiota α-diversity in 3 Independent Cohorts. Gastroenterology, 2019; DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2019.08.024
About the author
Gina Wren is currently a postgraduate student at Imperial College London focussing on microbiome in health & disease. She graduated from Durham University in 2016 after studying Natural Sciences. Following this, Gina worked at Innovate UK for two years helping to drive innovation and business growth in the health & life sciences industry.