30 Aug 2019
A study recently published in Food Microbiology1 isolated bacteria from red wine to test them for probiotic qualities. Specifically, these were 11 strains of LAB belonging to Pediococcus pentosaceus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum and O.oeni.
It is quite commonly known now that you can gain probiotics from fermented dairy foods but until recently the potential probiotic qualities of wine, which is also fermented, have not been studied. It's apparently brilliant news! Another study allowing us to enjoy the velvet beauty of a glass of red wine?
The bacteria were put through tests to ascertain whether they would survive simulated gastric juices. This is one of the main tests probiotics are put through in order to be considered viable. As well as this they were tested to ascertain if they would adhere to gut wall epithelial cells. The bacteria which were isolated did both of these things. In particular, one strain of bacteria, called P. pentosaceus CIAL-86, had an "excellent" ability to stick to the intestinal wall and "good" activity against harmful strains of E. Coli.
There are other aspects to consider, including shelf stability which may be irrelevant to this study, although there is a question as to how long the wine has to be fermented for in order to have probiotic qualities, and the study doesn’t mention this. We also consider the strength of our probiotic very carefully. This study does not mention how many microorganisms would in general be included in a glass of wine. This of course would be a major consideration when using wine as a probiotic supplement!
This study headed up by Dolores González de Llano of Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain does indicate that the probiotic properties of the lactic-acid bacteria isolated from wine are similar to those that come from more commonly known probiotic foods such as fermented dairy products and others such as sauerkraut and miso.
However, we feel it is always a little dangerous to advocate alcohol as having health benefits as this information could be misunderstood and misused and after all there is also a lot of research to show that drinking too much alcohol has detrimental effects to your health. Alcohol is linked to an increased insistence of oesophagus and breast cancer. It’s also linked to liver disease, can block the absorption of some minerals including iron. This together with it being high in sugar can lead to decreased energy. It’s also addictive and can exacerbate mental health problems amongst many other things2. We would advocate following government guidelines on how much is safe to drink.
It’s also worth noting that the sugar content in red wine will be detrimental to gut health as it feeds Candida (healthcare professionals can read more about candida on Probiotic Professionals page) and other pathogens which we do not want to encourage as they can indeed lead to dysbiosis which is detrimental to gut health.
So, although fascinatingly red wine does indeed appear to contain some probiotic qualities, it’s probably not a good idea to swap your probiotic supplement for a glass of rioja just yet!
A study recently conducted at Kings College London has gone on to corroborate these earlier findings, by showing that the occasional glass of red wine could be beneficial for our gut health3. The team of researchers, from the Department of Twins Research & Genetic Epidemiology, looked at how our gut microbiomes can be affected by alcoholic beverages including beer, cider, spirits, and both red and white wine. The initial sample was a group of 916 female twins.
It was found that those who consumed the red wine had a greater diversity of bacterial species in the gut than those who didn't. The same result was seen in further cohorts in the UK, the U.S., and Belgium, and across external factors including age, weight, diet and socioeconomic status.
It's suspected that polyphenols (defence chemicals also found in many fruits and veg) found in red wine are responsible for the benefits, as they can provide a boost to the microbes in our bodies.
Lead author, Professor Tim Spector, commented:
“This is one of the largest ever studies to explore the effects of red wine in the guts of nearly three thousand people in three different countries and 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.”
Interestingly, the same effect was not observed with any of the other alcohols, and drinking red wine as little as every two weeks was enough to notice an effect. So, again, it's definitely not a good idea to start knocking the Shiraz back! As with any aspect of our health, moderation and balance is key.
1.García-Ruiz, A., González de Llano, D., Esteban-Fernández, A., Requena, T., Bartolomé, B., & Moreno-Arribas, M. (2014). Assessment of probiotic properties in lactic acid bacteria isolated from wine. Food microbiology, 44, 220-225.
3. Spector, T., Le Roy, C. I., et al. (2019) 'Red Wine Consumption Associated With Increased Gut Microbiota α-diversity in 3 Independent Cohorts'. Gastroenterology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2019.08.024