Red wine has become the superstar of research on preventive health. One study after another has examined how resveratrol, the key antioxidant in red wine, has the potential to fight myriad chronic illnesses. And now scientists have found that polyphenols in red wine may promote digestive health as well.
Probiotics are booming
Probiotics are live microorganisms that support digestive health. Research linking a healthy gut with a healthy immune system has triggered a boom in the sale of probiotic foods. Once associated solely with yogurt, probiotics are now being added to everything from tea to cookies, pasta and pizza dough. Wine, like other fermented foods such as yogurt, is also rich in probiotics.
A recent study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” suggests that polyphenols—compounds found in red wine grapes—may promote digestive health by stimulating growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Red wine and digestive health
Researchers recruited a group of volunteers who agreed to go on the wagon for two weeks to wash out their systems. The study had three phases lasting 20 days each. In phase one, participants drank about a cup of red wine a day. In phase two, their daily cup of wine was alcohol-free. In phase three the volunteers partied with about 100 milliliters of gin a day.
Gut flora in the participants changed throughout the different study phases. Compared to the washout phase, drinking red wine with or without alcohol produced a pronounced increase in healthy gut bacteria. Red wine polyphenols also lowered blood pressure, reduced bad cholesterol and reduced levels of triglycerides, a protein associated with inflammation. Drinking gin improved gut flora only slightly.
Uncork the cabernet
The study suggests that the benefits of red wine and resveratrol go beyond cardiovascular health and could have potential in promoting digestive health, and in turn, immune system health. But it should be noted that drinking red wine for a healthy gut probably isn’t for everyone, particularly people dealing with peptic ulcers or acid reflux. Plus, the study used just 10 healthy men as subjects.
But wine lovers have to be pleased about one more reason that red wine polyphenols play a legitimate role in a healthy, balanced diet.