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Red wine better than white for gut health

Red wine grapes in a barrel

Healthwise, there is no risk-free amount of alcohol to consume, but opting for red wine, instead of white or beer, may bring some benefits for our digestive system, according to recent research.

With summer finally here and Christmas and New Year approaching many of us will enjoy a social drink.

A UK study, published in the journal Gastroenterology, found people who drank red wine had increased gut microbiota diversity compared with participants who didn’t.

The study, conducted on sets of female identical twins (916 participants), also found an association with red wine consumption and lower rates of obesity and ‘bad’ cholesterol.

The gut bacteria benefits were also observed in three different cohorts in the UK, US and Belgium, taking study participant numbers to close to 3000.

A gut microbiome (bacteria, yeasts, fungi and other microorganisms that live in our digestive system) that has a higher number of different bacterial species is thought to be a marker of good gut health, a press release from the King’s College researchers says.

The authors believe the association of red wine consumption with gut microbiome diversity may be down to the polyphenols present in your favourite drop of red.

Polyphenols are naturally occurring chemicals present in many fruits and vegetables, and have antioxidant and prebiotic properties. Prebiotics are food for our gut bacteria.

And, because drinking alcohol, even moderately, is associated with increased risk of certain cancers, it’s good to know drinking red wine just once every two weeks is potentially enough to see the benefits.

Ministry of Health guidelines recommend women drink no more than two standard drinks in a session and men no more than three, to reduce the health risks of alcohol consumption.