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expert reaction to study looking at red wine and the gut microbiome

Research, published in the journal Gastroenterology, reports that drinking red wine may be beneficial for the gut microbiome.


Dr Nik Sharma, Honorary Consultant Neurologist, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, said:

“In recent years, it has become clear that the gut microbiome plays a vital role in disease. This study reports that the positive effect of drinking red wine on BMI and ‘bad’ cholesterol may be influenced by the gut microbiome. In keeping with work involving large populations (epidemiology), this work reports an association rather than causation. More work is required, perhaps using mouse models to establish the nature of the relationship and to further explore the underlying mechanisms.  Nevertheless, the use of a twin cohort will have removed many of the confounds adding weight to their conclusions.  Finally, they were able to largely replicate the findings across three different cohort suggests the work is robust.”


Dr Sadie Boniface, Research Coordinator, The Institute of Alcohol Studies, said:

This novel study aimed to explore whether drinking different types of alcohol was linked to gut microbiome in 900 UK female twins. This one study is not definitive but found associations between red wine consumption and increased gut microbiota diversity thought to be important for health. The authors suggest this may be due to polyphenols; a chemical in red wine. However, no doctor would recommend drinking on medical grounds, as any potential benefits of red wine polyphenols should be considered alongside alcohol’s links to over 200 health conditions, including heart disease and cancers as identified in the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines review. Polyphenols are also available from in a range of other foods besides red wine.


Prof Kim Barrett, Distinguished Professor of Medicine, UC San Diego, said:

“It’s a very well-done study that is highly suggestive of a beneficial effect of red wine consumption that is mediated by an effect on the gut microbiota. Like the vast majority of microbiota studies in humans, the findings reflect associations rather than causality, particularly with regard to the implication that the microbiota mediates the effect of red wine consumption on ”bad” cholesterol and obesity. As the authors themselves note, sorting out any causal effects would require a randomized trial, which probably will never occur.  On the other hand, the fact that many of their findings could be replicated across three different cohorts of subjects in different countries adds great weight to their conclusions, and the use of twin pairs is also very helpful to remove many confounding factors. 

“In the long run, this work might suggest (perhaps less pleasurable) ways to obtain the apparent health benefits of red wine consumption without drinking the wine itself, although more work would be needed to isolate and test the components of red wine that are responsible for the effects seen here.”


‘Red wine consumption is associated with increased gut microbiota α-diversity in three independent cohorts’ by Le Roy et al. was published in Gastroenterology at 00:01 UK time on Wednesday 28 August. 


Declared interests

Dr Nik Sharma: I’m a principal investigator & neurologist with a programme of research at the ION, UCL that examines the gut microbiome in MND.   The work is funded by the Reta Lila Weston Trust and the MND Assoc. 

Dr Sadie Boniface:  I work at the Institute for Alcohol Studies which is funded by the Alliance House Foundation

Prof Kim Barrett: I am chair of the Publications Committee of the American Gastroenterological Association, which publishes Gastroenterology.

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