Wine and Your Microbiome
July 02, 2020
By Kelly Scanlon, RD for The Natural Wine School

Wine and your gut partner in fascinating ways to impact your health. Kelly Scanlon, our Registered Dietitian from London specializing in wine topics, and will be featured regularly.

What is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome (GM) plays a large role in the digestion and absorption of food and also educates our immune system. For these reasons, the GM can greatly affect our health and the conditions we may be more susceptible to such as obesity, bowel diseases, allergies, and even our mental state.

What effect does wine have on the gut microbiome?

Despite having little control of the GM we were dealt early in life, one of the major ways we influence it daily is through diet. We know that foods, food additives, and environmental toxins can change our gut bacteria for better or worse. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can drastically improve our GM for the better, but what effect does alcohol have?

It turns out, wine and your gut are health partners.  The compounds found in red wine specifically appear to have a beneficial impact on our GM affecting the overall composition, determining which species grow and flourish as well as which ones are inhibited. Larrosa et al. (2009) studied the effect of resveratrol on the colon microbiota and observed an increase in beneficial Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria while inhibiting bacteria such as E. Coli and others associated with urinary tract infections. These beneficial associations have not otherwise been observed with other alcoholic beverages such as white wine, beer, cider, or spirits.

Red wine naturally contains the antioxidants polyphenols. These compounds originating from the skin and seeds of the grapes have been associated with diversifying bacteria which is known to be beneficial to human health.

Red wine is linked with heart health as it increases the good “HDL” cholesterol while decreasing the bad “LDL” cholesterol. As it turns out, part of this process may start in the gut. Unfortunately, some of the bad bacteria can promote plaque buildup in our arteries. Studies in rodents have demonstrated that those treated with resveratrol had reduced plaque buildup.

Wine and your gut impact weight stability.  Resveratrol has also been shown to have an anti-obesity effect as it appears to reduce the bacteria associated with weight gain (Firmicutes) while promoting a species that promotes energy metabolism and satiety (Bacteroidetes). Another study done in humans followed 720 adolescents over 22 years and found that wine drinkers (as opposed to beer and spirit drinkers) had less weight gain. Good news for wine lovers who are keen to maintain healthy body weight.

Studies done through King's College in London, the USA’s “Gut Project”, and Belgium’s “The Flemish Gut Flora Project” confirm these findings.

What is the take home message?
One of the studies leading authors, Dr Le Roy sums it up nicely stating:

 "Although we observed an association between red wine consumption and the gut microbiota diversity, drinking red wine rarely, such as once every two weeks, seems to be enough to observe an effect. If you must choose one alcoholic drink today, red wine is the one to pick as it seems to potentially exert a beneficial effect on you and your gut microbes, which in turn may also help weight and risk of heart disease. However, it is still advised to consume alcohol with moderation."

In conclusion, there is good evidence that the compounds found in red wine can directly impact the gut microbiome by helping decrease cholesterol, prevent weight gain, keep you satiated after a meal, and prevent bad bugs. However, like all of the great things in life, moderation and balance is key.

Here's to wine and your a healthier gut!

1)      Le Roy, C. I., Wells, P. M., Si, J., Raes, J., Bell, J. T., & Spector, T. D. (2019). Red Wine Consumption Associated With Increased Gut Microbiota α-diversity in 3 Independent Cohorts. Gastroenterology. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2019.08.024

2)      Danneskiold-Samsøe, N. B., de Freitas Queiroz Barros, H. D., Santos, R., Bicas, J. L., Cazarin, C. B. B., Madsen, L., … Junior, M. R. M. (2018). Interplay between food and gut microbiota in health and disease. Food Research International. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2018.07.043 

3)      Larrosa, M., Yañéz-Gascón, M. J., Selma, M. V., González-Sarrías, A., Toti, S., Cerón, J. J., … Espín, J. C. (2009). Effect of a Low Dose of Dietary Resveratrol on Colon Microbiota, Inflammation and Tissue Damage in a DSS-Induced Colitis Rat Model. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 57(6), 2211–2220. doi:10.1021/jf803638d 

4)      Naumovski, N., Panagiotakos, D. B., & D’Cunha, N. M. (2019). Untangling the two-way relationship between red wine polyphenols and gut microbiota. Gastroenterology. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2019.10.015 

5)      Cordova, A. C. & Sumpio, B. E. (2009). Polyphenols are medicine: Is it time to prescribe red wine for our patients? International Journal of Angiology.
6)      Poudel P, Ismailova K, Andersen LB, et al. Adolescent wine consumption is inversely associated with long-term weight gain: results from follow-up of 20 or 22 years. Nutr J 2019;18:56.

7)      Weiskirchen S, Weiskirchen R. Resveratrol: How Much Wine Do You Have to Drink to Stay Healthy? Adv Nutr 2016;7:706-718.

8)      Bird, J. K., Raederstorff, D., Weber, P., & Steinert, R. E. (2017). Cardiovascular and Antiobesity Effects of Resveratrol Mediated through the Gut Microbiota. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 8(6), 839–849. doi:10.3945/an.117.016568 
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