We have all heard news headlines pertaining to the positive aspects of drinking red wine. Among its purported health benefits, studies have found it may improve heart health, reduce the risk of certain cancers, reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and reduce the risk of depression(1) (though I’m going to go out on a limb here and hypothesize that red wine’s mental health benefits also relate to alcohol consumption being a social affair).
Research has also found that red wine consumption can benefit our microbiome! A small 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that moderate red wine consumption actually increases levels of Bifidobacterium and Prevotella (2), both considered critical ‘friendly” inhabitants of the human digestive tract. (3, 4)
In this study, researchers evaluated the effect of red wine consumption versus control in 10 middle-aged male volunteers. The two parameters measured were levels of lipopolysaccharides (LPS), and levels of certain bacteria in the gut.
LPS is a gut-related bacterial marker of inflammation; higher levels of LPS correlate with higher levels of inflammation. And inflammation is the root of many modern chronic diseases (5).
Gut bacteria – collectively known as microbiota, or our microbiome – is the hottest health topic now for good reason. It is showing to be directly or indirectly impacting virtually every aspect of our health. Don’t believe me? Simply google your particular health concern and “microbiome” and get lost in the plethora of studies.
Anyway, back to the red wine study. Red wine consumption was found to significantly increase levels of bifidobacteria.
This is good news because bifidobacteria has been found to reduce gut wall permeability and as such, helps lower levels of inflammation (as measured by lower LPS concentration). And we all have some degree of inflammation, be it overt or silent.
BOTTOM LINE: Red wine improves the gut flora, specifically the bifidobacteria species, which supports gut health and inflammation.
I’m not advocating buying out the local liquor store’s supply of red wine! But we now know that moderate consumption has some gut health benefit.
While there is no set definition for “moderate consumption”, Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines suggests no more than 2 standard drinks per day for women, up to 10 drinks per week, and no more than 3 standard drinks per day for men, and no more than 15 standard drinks per week. Of course, depending on what your health goals or concerns are, you may need to lower these numbers or strictly avoid alcohol.
I don’t drink anywhere near 2 standard drinks per day; but I do love a good glass of red wine! Cheers…and here’s to a healthy gut!