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Drinking red wine might help “friendly” bacteria thrive in the colon, making it a newcomer to the category of health-promoting substances called prebiotics.
Red wine is rich in polyphenols—plant-derived compounds that act as antioxidants in the body, counteracting the damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. Polyphenols may play a role in preventing many chronic diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. A large percentage of dietary polyphenols survive most of the digestive process, making it to the large intestine (colon) virtually unchanged. Here, they are believed interact with the local “gut bugs."
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, to see if red wine polyphenols influenced the types of bacteria in the colon, a team of Spanish researchers compared the effects of red wine, dealcoholized red wine, and gin on the composition of intestinal bacteria found in ten healthy men (average age 48).
The study consisted of three, 20-day periods, during which the men drank 272 ml of red wine, 272 ml of dealcoholized red wine, or 100 ml of gin per day.
Before beginning, and again after each study period, the men’s stool was tested for the presence of several different bacterial strains. Their blood pressure was also measured throughout the study, and tests were run to look at levels of blood fats and inflammatory markers after each test period.
“Although further research is required, the results of this study suggest the possible prebiotic benefits associated with the inclusion of red wine polyphenols in the diet,” the team concluded.
Optimal digestion is one of the cornerstones of health and immunity. Here are some tips for keeping your insides in tip-top shape:
(Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:1323–34)