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Bottoms up: Habitual wine consumption linked to healthier gut and reduced bad cholesterol

Red wine drinkers have an increased gut microbiota diversityand lower levels of obesity and "bad" cholesterol, according to a study fromKing's College London, UK. The researchers compared the effects of beer,cider, red wine, white wine and spirits on the gut microbiome and subsequenthealth in 916 UK female twins. This diversification effect, which was notobserved with other drinks, is likely caused by red wine's many polyphenols.However, the researchers caution that the alcohol must still be consumedresponsibly."This study shows that when looking at alcohol consumption and health, redwine should be considered separately. The polyphenols likely causing redwine's benefits are molecules present mostly in the grapes' skin. They canalso be found in many other vegetables or fruits, as well as nuts and seedsand even chocolate. Therefore, drinking red wine is not the only solution toimprove our gut microbiota and should still be drunk with moderation,"Caroline Le Roy, Ph.D., first author of the study, tells_NutritionInsight_. Click to EnlargeThe study found that the gut microbiota of red wine consumerscontained a greater number of different bacterial species compared to non-consumers. Polyphenols are defense chemicals that have various beneficialproperties and generally act as a fuel for the microbes in the gut.Additionally, having a high number of different bacterial species is a markerof good gut health. Too many "bad" microbes can lead to health conditionsincluding a reduced immune system, weight gain or high cholesterol.The study, which has been published in _Gastroenterology_ , found that the gutmicrobiota of red wine consumers contained a greater number of differentbacterial species compared to non-consumers. This result was seen in threedifferent cohorts in the UK, US and the Netherlands, and in spite of factorssuch as participants' age, weight, regular diet and socioeconomic status.Additionally, red wine consumption as low as once every other week wasassociated with lower levels of obesity and "bad" cholesterol, which was inpart due to the gut microbiota."Studies have consistently shown that low levels of alcohol are protectiveagainst heart disease and red wine has been suggested to be particularlyimportant, but any mechanisms were unclear. It is now well recognized that thecommunity of microbes that inhabits our gut plays a key role in our health.This community is partly shaped by what we eat. For example, processed foodhas a bad effect on its composition, while foods rich in fiber are beneficialfor our microbes. However, very little is known about the effect of alcoholconsumption on the gut microbiota," Le Roy explains."One of the main issues in conducting observational studies on alcoholconsumption is taking biases into account, such as overall diet, socioeconomicbackground or genetics. To overcome this issue, our analysis was corrected forthese factors. Moreover, we used data collected on twin pairs, where one ofthe twins was drinking more red wine than their co-twin to account forgenetics and some of these environmental biases," Le Roy continues.She notes that researchers have only recently started to understand theimportance that the bacterial community present in our gut has on our health."What is interesting about this community is that unlike our genes, it ispossible to change its composition to potentially improve our health. Beforewe get to that point, we need to understand how we can modify the gutmicrobiota composition with food.A recent study found that a high-fat diet can weaken the gut immune system andlead to insulin resistance and, ultimately, diabetes. Other experts in thenutrition industry have also pointed to fermented foods such as kombucha andkefir to being key to boosting gut health."The other driver is personalized nutrition. We all react differently to foodsbased on our unique gut microbe communities, and this is becoming one of thehottest areas of nutrition," she highlights. Personalized nutrition has beenpegged as one of the top trends in the field, with a recent Lonza-commissionedsurvey finding that the Millennial generation is largely open to theopportunities that personalization presents to learn more about their bodies.Other experts have also chimed in that we are fully entering an age of personalized nutrition, which will unlock new health avenues around the world.

Reference : Nutrition Insight