Research has indicated that moderate amounts of red wine consumption is correlated with increased diversity in gut bacteria.
One of the characteristics of red wine is that it is rich in a group of micronutrients called polyphenols, particularly when compared to other alcoholic drinks such as beer and white wine. Polyphenols are present in a wide range of plant-based foods and have long been associated with a number of health and wellbeing benefits including improved digestion and cardiovascular health.
A recent scientific study published in the journal Gastroenterology and featured by the BBC, claims that even two glasses of red wine a month might be sufficient to boost gut health. Reports that link alcohol consumption with health benefits are usually treated cautiously, lest they provoke excessive consumption. This research found that in three independent cohort studies, red wine drinkers had greater diversity in helpful gut bacteria than non-red wine drinkers. Although this study demonstrated a simple correlation, the evidence is mounting that a number of physical and mental health conditions (Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, obesity, and even depression) are linked to the range of bacteria in our digestive tract. It should be stressed that none of the participants in the research were identified as ‘heavy drinkers’.
In summary, the initial findings are that moderate amounts of red wine consumption are correlated with increased diversity in gut bacteria. And in turn, increased diversity in gut bacteria is linked to a number of health benefits. However, the wider picture is that the composition of our gut microbiota can be influenced by a range of factors. Therefore any single element, such as red wine consumption must be seen in relation to diet and lifestyle in general.
Blueberries appear to offer a wide range of benefits including supporting guthealth.
Being a meditation scientist I often write about lifestyle choices that support augmented brain function and structure. As a general rule food that is associated with a healthy brain also positively correlates with improved general health and well-being. So having just blogged an article explaining how blueberry consumption can reduce effective brain age by up to 2.5 years I looked up potential relationships between blueberries and the gut microbiome.
Berries in general and blueberries, in particular, are good natural sources of polyphenols and therefore limit the effect of oxidisation, a cause of cell damage. But we also know that polyphenols lead to a healthier gut through the creation of metabolites which in turn support communities of beneficial bacteria.
As we age, chronic diseases become more likely1, when low-grade inflammation is an underlying factor, scientists refer to this as the “inflammaging” syndrome. In the gut, health inflammaging is linked to a weakening of a number of internal systems (homeostasis) including a reduction in the efficiency of the immune barrier. In experiments with mice, it was suggested that polyphenols reduced intestinal inflammation and led to the modulation of the gut microbiota. The evidence is that berries are rich sources of polyphenols and so are likely to have a positive impact on chronic diseases linked to gut health, particularly in older populations.
According to the Blueberry Council, the benefits of blueberries extend beyond inflammaging.
Experiments have demonstrated an improved insulin response in blueberry-fed mice when compared to controls.
Further evidence for augmented cognitive function in animals and humans has been found.
There are also preliminary studies supporting a relationship between blueberry consumption and reduced growth in cancerous cells.
Polyphenol is found in a wide range of fruit and vegetables as well as nuts and pulses. Here are some of the top 100 food sources of polyphenol according to a study published in 20102.