Could a glass of red wine improve your gut health?

28th August 2019

Drinking red wine is linked with an increase in gut bacteria diversity, according to the latest research from TwinsUK.

White wine had a similar although much smaller effect, while researchers found no association between other types of alcohol and gut bacteria variety.

In addition, twins who drank more red wine than their co-twin had more diverse gut bacteria.

Previous research suggests that a more varied community of bacteria in your gut leads to a healthier gut.

First author Dr Caroline Le Roy, from the Department of Twin Research, King’s College London, explained:

“We’ve known for some time that red wine has some health benefits, which likely come from certain molecules called polyphenols.

“Our research shows how red wine is associated with an increase in gut bacteria diversity.

“At this time however we cannot say that drinking red wine directly causes an increase in gut bacteria diversity – we need more research first.”

What did the researchers do?

The team analysed food and drink questionnaire responses and gut bacteria diversity in 916 female TwinsUK participants. The researchers also looked at a number of other factors such as weight and blood cholesterol levels.

The researchers then checked their results by carrying out a similar analysis on participants in two other studies from The Netherlands and the USA.

What did they find?

Participants who reported drinking red wine had greater levels of gut bacteria diversity than non-red wine drinkers.

The team also found that red wine consumption was linked with lower levels of obesity and “bad” cholesterol, which was in part due to associated changes in gut bacteria communities.

What does this mean?

The researchers believe the main reason for the association is due to the many polyphenols in red wine. Polyphenols are defence chemicals naturally present in many fruits and vegetables. They have beneficial properties and mainly act as a fuel for our microbes.

Professor Tim Spector, senior author on the study, explained:

“Although our results are very consistent, they are only associations and do not imply causation.

“We would need to carry out studies where humans or animals were given red wine in order to test whether red wine – or rather the polyphenols it contains – is causing an increase in gut bacteria diversity and limiting weight gain in turn.”

The researchers stressed that it is still advised to drink alcohol in moderation, although they have a recommendation for your tipple of choice:

“If you have to choose one alcoholic drink, then red wine is definitely the one to pick as it may have a positive effect on your gut bacteria and wider health.”

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