Wine and Weight: New Research Sheds Light in this Relationship
The relationship between wine and weight is greater than a sum of calories. Wine is a complex drink and so much more than a mix alcohol and water, and everyday new research is published to complete the map of its interaction with our bodies.
People are frequently presented with clickbaity information on how wine consumption influences weight, often in the shape of too-good-to-be-true claims like that one about a glass of red equaling an hour at the gym (when the actual study the viral news piece referred to only stated that “some of the benefits of regular exercise can also be mimicked by the naturally occurring polyphenol, resveratrol“).
Last October 2016, we were able to attend the third edition of the Wine & Culinary International Forum in Barcelona, an event created to debate and reflect on the relationship between wine and food. Among the speakers, we met Dr. Francisco Tinahones, endocrine and researcher at the University of Malaga and the coordinator of the group inside of CIBEROBN (Network Research Center of the Pathophysiology of Obesity and Nutrition).
Tinahones, who has over a decade of experience working with nutrition and more than 25 years in the medical profession, took the stage for a talk titled “The Effects of Moderate Wine Consumption on Health” in which he shared the results of his latest experiments with the audience. According to his research, wine was found to produce a noticeable increase in beneficial bifid bacteria in people’s intestinal tract.”
A Breakthrough Discovery on wine and weight
Tonahones’ study, which can be read in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is titled Influence of red wine polyphenols and ethanol on the gut microbiota ecology and biochemical biomarkers. Long story short, it looked to “evaluate the effects of a moderate intake of red wine polyphenols on select gut microbial groups”, or made even simpler: it studied red wine’s impact on gut flora.
A note on gut flora: this is needed to digest many foods and it is believed to have an impact on metabolism, therefore on weight gain and/or loss.
The study gathered ten healthy male volunteers who “underwent a randomized, crossover, controlled intervention study.” Over 20 day periods separated by a washout interval, volunteers were given red wine, de-alcoholised red wine and gin. The bacterial composition of the samples analysed changed during the different intake periods and it was after they had had red wine that the biggest increase in good bacteria was noted. “In parallel, systolic and diastolic blood pressures and triglyceride, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and C-reactive protein concentrations decreased significantly.”
One of the points he emphasised during his talk at Wine & Culinary International Forum was that the de-alcoholised wine performed lower than the normal red wine and gin’s impact was even lower. Therefore, polyphenols or alcohol by themselves are not as effective as when they’re part of the same beverage. Tinahones explains that although “other foods such as some fruits and vegetables are also rich in polyphenols”, the ones found in wine are unique to it.
Moderation: What exactly is moderate wine drinking?
Moderation is key and Tinahones was sure to point out that wine’s beneficial properties are overshadowed by alcohol’s harmful effects once consumption becomes excessive. We contacted him to get his thoughts on what moderate wine consumption means.
“Moderate consumption of wine is considered no more than 30 grams of alcohol a day for men and 20 grams for women”, the difference in threshold is due to men metabolising alcohol more efficiently, he added.
To give you an idea, a 100 ml glass of wine has about 10 grams of alcohol and a 330 ml beer has about 13 grams of alcohol. Therefore, the limit would be no more than two beers a day or two 100 ml wine servings. A 750 ml bottle of wine should last you at least 3 days if you drink it by yourself.
Tinahones also explains that alcoholic drinks have a high caloric content, “for example, 200 ml of wine have about 140 calories and a 330 ml beer about 150 calories”, so he points out that they’re not recommendable during hypocaloric diets (those in which you eat less calories than the ones you burn and that should be undertaken under the supervision of a qualified professional to avoid depriving you of necessary nutrients), although they are a perfectly acceptable part of a balanced diet.
Wine as Part of a Healthy, Balanced Diet
Moderate wine consumption as part of a balanced diet has long been a given in the Mediterranean, and countries in which this is part of the culture, such as Spain, France and Italy, are among the European nations with longest life expectancy (according to figures from the World Economic Forum).
Tinahones’ research on wine concludes that “red wine consumption can significantly modulate the growth of select gut microbiota in humans, which suggests possible prebiotic benefits associated with the inclusion of red wine polyphenols in the diet”, this means that a moderate consumption of wine contributes to the maintenance of gut health by encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria and inhibiting pathogens.
So, besides other science-proven beneficial compounds found in wine such as phytoalexins, polyphenols, flavonoids and other antioxidants, now prebiotics -linked to anti-inflamatory efects and a stable digestive system- join the list of good substances found in a glass of red.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.