Have you ever been told that drinking wine is bad? Then this story will be an eye-opener for you.

A study published in the journal Gastroenterology has found that red wine drinkers have increased gut microbiota diversity (a sign of good gut health) compared to non-red wine drinkers.

Fascinating right! It is also associated with lower levels of obesity and ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Researchers explored the effect of beer, cider, red wine, white wine, and spirits on the gut microbiome (GM) and subsequent health in a group of 916 British female twins.

They found that the GM of red wine drinkers was more diverse compared to non-red wine drinkers. The same wasn’t observed with white wine, beer, or spirits consumption. “While we have long known of the unexplained benefits of red wine on heart health, this study shows that moderate red wine consumption is associated with greater diversity and a healthier gut microbiota that partly explain its long-debated beneficial effects on health,” said first author of the study, Dr Caroline Le Roy from King’s College London.

Wondering what microbiome is? Here’s some trivia.

Microbiome is basically made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes that help in digestion and other bodily functions.

The team observed that the gut microbiota of red wine consumers contained a greater number of different bacterial species compared to non-consumers. This result was also observed in three different cohorts in the UK, the US, and the Netherlands.

Factors that were taken into account were age, weight, the regular diet, and socio-economic status of the participants and continued to see the association.

But how does wine do it? Well, the authors believe the main reason for the association is due to the many polyphenols in red wine. Polyphenols are defense chemicals naturally present in many fruits and vegetables. They have many beneficial properties (including antioxidants) and mainly act as a fuel for the microbes present in our system.

Lead author Professor Tim Spector from King’s College London explained, “It provides insights that the high levels of polyphenols in the grape skin could be responsible for much of the controversial health benefits when used in moderation. The study also found that red wine consumption was associated with lower levels of obesity and ‘bad’ cholesterol which was in part due to the gut microbiota.

So how much wine is enough?

“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,” opined Dr. Le Roy.

And we second the thought shared by Dr. Roy. Drinking butt loads of wine in the name of good health has its own share of ill-effects. So if you want to cash in on the gut benefits of wine, consume wine in the right portions and of course–occasionally.