Red Wine & Gut Health. A Fun Antioxidant Source Provides Hidden Benefits:
They say you are what you eat.
Maybe if you get a little more nerdy, you start talking Fat, Carbs, Protein,
And crazier-still, you might even look at Calories!
But very few of us get down to thinking about biochemistry or even what our microbes are doing.
And if a KCL team out of England has the story right, what you eat and drink has effects far in-excess of just keeping you full.
They could go right down to the chemistry of your body, and metabolism…
So Hippocrates Was Right Again About Food?:
Most of us tend to think of chemicals in our bodies as maybe vitamins, cholesterol, or most-likely, prescription meds.
But it might be way more complex than this.
Because there is a lot going on in digestion (no pun intended),
And even more as food goes past your stomach and through your gut,
But The Short Answer for the current study is that Red Wine appears to add both strength and increased-variety to the colony of your gut microbes,
And this tiny addition can have potentially-huge implications for your health going-forward.
Read on to find out more details…
So Red Wine & French People Are Paradoxical?:
So red wine has been linked to all kinds of health benefits.
Whether it’s cardiovascular, heart-attack, stroke, stress, reduced total visits to hospitals,
Or even just better health outcomes in-general,
There is a lot of evidence out there.
And an anecdotal part of that is called “The French Paradox”.
-Which basically-states that aside from the small pot of yogurt after dinner,
The French break all kinds of rules we have in other western-countries,
Especially for what to eat at meals,
Yet somehow they still manage to stay slim & healthy.
A contradiction; not a joke about two of doctors.
And one of the staples in French food? -Red Wine.
Here Are The Study Results:
So across almost 1,000 pairs of twins in the UK,
About 450 twins in the US, and 2,000 subjects in Belgium,
The KCL/VIK-Leuven team looked at the gut-microbe diversity and food/drink intake of the subjects.
And for all those people, even when controlled for income, socioeconomic status, genetics, diet, and weight,
The researchers found that if subjects drank red wine even occasionally,
The variety of microbes in their guts was much larger.
They even found that in the twins studies they could control the variables even tighter,
The results were the same; -even when one twin drank more red wine than the other!
And controlling for bias or study-errors doesn’t get much more certain than studying Twins.
Other Fermented-Beverages Don’t Even Compare:
The same was not true for people who drank anything else.
Even people who drank White Wine had similar, but much lower-grade results to the red wine drinkers.
This was also true for the twins when one drank white and the other drank red.
Anyone else who drank even naturally-fermented stuff like Beer, or even Hard Cider,
Did not come close to the strong variety of different gut microbes.
And here’s the French Paradox Kicker:
Subjects who drank red wine also had reduced rates of Obesity & Heart-Disease, too!
Those Extra Microbes Bring Extra Benefits!:
And that’s what matters!
Because as we hinted at the very-beginning,
Your Stomach might be or at-least seem-like the chief-agent at extracting all the benefit out of the food you eat,
Or at-least the Nutritional benefit,
But your gut-microbes don’t just keep digesting the food you eat,
They also put-out on the order of Thousands of biologically-active chemical compounds,
Many or possibly all of which can impact your health in one way or another.
Here Are A Few Of The Benefits Science Has Found So-Far:
Healthier gut microbes & greater diversity of them have been associated in studies with improvements in the following:
2) Heart Disease
11) Inflammation-Related Diseases
12) Immune System Function
13) Benefits Inherited By Your Children
16) Reduced Calorie Intake by Feeling Fuller Sooner
17) Better Absorption of Vitamins
So How The Hell Does This Work?:
The general answer the researchers tend-toward is something red grapes have almost-uniquely,
And was also hinted-at in the twins who only drank White whine.
These are a class of strange chemicals that some fruits & nuts use to protect themselves in nature.
Like the ones our old friend Dr. Neal Barnard pointed out that you find lots of in Blueberries!
These chemicals are both anti-inflammatory and also anti-oxidants.
The Sneaky Miracle Of Polyphenols:
But that’s not their last trick.
Because Caroline Leroy’s team thinks they also provide chemical “food” for the special variety of gut-microbes to survive on,
And put out all kinds of different helpful biochemicals into our bodies as thanks for feeding them.
While Neal Barnard’s studies had people drinking natural red grape or blueberry juice,
Red wine has even more polyphenols in it than just plain red grape juice.
And Dr. Caroline pointed-out that red wine is not like a Probiotic pill that gives you specific bugs,
It’s more of a Prebiotic the way certain fibers like beta-glucan are, it’s Food for the microbes.
So in-short, Polyphenols and Anthocyanins are tiny little multi-faceted food-miracles.
How Can I Get The Benefits?:
Well both Dr. Leroy and our friend Sandrine Thuret would recommend some red wine,
And Sandrine would also remind you that there is a good chance it’s also brain-cell neutral,
Due to the resveratrol present in it and that it may not even be neuro-toxic the way all other sources of alcohol are,
But there is even better news.
Because in her comments, Caroline notes that several studies suggest alcohol can be dangerous for your health,
Definitely at high-doses, and for some people possibly even lower.
BUT: She does say that it is Still Possible to get the gut-microbe benefits of red wine consumption,
At the low-low rate of Only 1 Glass Every 2 Weeks!
How about that for an amazing set of benefits at super-low risk!
At that dosage, I bet even Yogurt is less healthy for you!
There Are Other Things To Consider, Too:
In addition to red wine, you should be taking care of your gut microbes in-general.
One post we did talks about all the different mood-disorders associated with a disturbed gut,
And it’s no wonder, because in some-cases up to 50% of the neurotransmitters like Serotonin and GABA your brain needs for a good mood,
Are made right down there by the little buggies in your gut.
You also want to be very protective of your gut if you take Antibiotics.
Because they can kill almost all your gut microbes,
Give you problems for up to a year, especially achy joints from the lack of the anti-inflammatory Butyrate,
That your microbes would have produced if you didn’t nuke them with Cipro or Clindamycin.
An even more terrible part of that, is that if you don’t take care of your gut, you can also pass those deficiencies on to your children, too!
Red Wine For Gut Health Is An Amazing & Unexpected Discovery:
So it’s certainly a weird facet of health to think about your gut outside an Activia commercial starring Jamie-Lee Curtis,
But those thousands of biochemicals can make a huge difference in very unexpected ways,
And not just as simple as getting more antioxidants.
So after you get your fiber and your fermented-foods,
If you’re up for switching what you drink,
Even a very small bit of red wine certainly looks absolutely like the drink of choice to keep your gut and the rest of you massively-healthy for a long time; cheers!
Photo Credits: “Red wine France”, by Jill Wellington