Is Red Wine Good for Gut Health?

It’s Wine Down Friday! A glass or two doesn’t hurt, right? In fact, some say it can even be good for your health, including gut health. Red wine is a major component of the Mediterranean Diet and also key part of what makes the French Paradox a paradox… hmm another food dilemma?!

According to a recent study by the King’s College London, researchers found that the gut microbiome of red wine drinkers are more diverse than drinkers of other alcoholic beverages as seen in 916 female twins in the UK. After the initial study, the researchers were able to confirm their findings in three other groups in Britain, the Netherlands and the United States, which brought the total sample size to almost 3,000. There’s also a positive association with lower obesity rate and bad cholesterols in red wine drinkers (I wonder if it’s partly affected by the more diverse microbiome or the other way around). The authors indicated that even after taking into account factors such as age, weight, the regular diet and socioeconomic status of the participants, they continue continued to see the association.

The positive effect in red wine is largely due to polyphenols such as anthocyanin and procyanidins in red wine, which are naturally occurring chemicals that have antioxidant property along with other health benefits. Another study suggests that polyphenols from grape and red wine can be metabolized by gut microbiota. In turn, the resulting metabolites can also “modulate gut microbiota and contribute to beneficial microbial ecology that can enhance human health benefits“. Therefore, there seems to be a two-way relationship between polyphenols and our microbiota. However, more research need to be conducted before any health claims can be called out.

  • But how well can we absorb these beneficial polyphenols?

Not all red wines are created equal… the polyphenol content in red wine is affected by many factors such as variety, climate, ripeness, soil quality and geographical location. And even if a group of people drink the exact same red wine, we may see different absorption rates in each individual as influenced by our metabolic rate, inflammation, and perhaps our existing gut microbiome (I suspect that not all microbes can metabolize these polyphenols – if only certain good microbes do and our existing gut microbiome is already lacking those, then we really can’t metabolize too much polyphenols, can we?)

  • How much do we need to see a beneficial affect? How much is too much?

Most studies including those mentioned above indicate that moderate intake is beneficial to gut health – this means approx. half a glass of wine on 2-3 occasions a week, totalling 2 glasses a week.

Even though there’re many proven health benefits associated with moderate red wine intake (gut health, heart health, mental health, longevity, blood sugar stabilizing …), it’s important to remember that MODERATION IS KEY.

  • In general, alcoholic intake is associated with an increased rate of all kinds of cancer;
  • Alcohol can disrupt hormonal balance (affects the endocrine system);
  • Alcohol can actually make your gut weaker by making the gut lining more permeable and allowing harmful substances which should be contained in the gut to enter the blood stream.
  • Alcohol increases the burden of the liver which is constantly “filtering” and flushing out toxins for us. If it’s overload then it would be less efficient in processing those toxins for us.

Alright… I’m not sure if all these give you some excuse to pour down some wine or make you even more worried, but I’ve made a batch of Tropical Red Wine Sangria and I’m definitely gonna enjoy some now! I deserve this! (I added apple peel, pineapple core, orange slices and berries in this.)

Here’re some ideas to reduce alcoholic intake but still embrace the beneficial polyphenols in grapes and other fruits (which have other kinds of polyphenols but still beneficial in various other ways) and make the drink even more gut-friendly

  • Add berries to your red wine sangria to boost the polyphenol content and drink in moderation (it’s watered-down wine, right??).
  • Make a “MOCKTAIL”! Use 100% natural (not from concentrate) grape juice or pomegranate juice and add coconut water to replace red wine but bring down the sugar content at the same time (sugar is still bad for you no matter how much polyphenols/antioxidants you stuff yourself with…).
  • Another idea is to use kombucha or water kefir to replace the alcohol in any cocktail recipes.


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