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Want probiotics? Uncork a Chianti Add to ...

As if we needed another excuse to indulge, researchers have discovered that red wine is good for the gut.

It turns out that, like yogurt, red wine is a rich source of probiotics, The New York Times reports.

That goes for de-alcoholized wine as well as boozy malbec or merlot, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Volunteers in the study agreed to lay off the sauce for a two-week “washout” period. Then they went through three stages, each lasting 20 days. For the first phase, participants drank about a cup of red wine a day. For the next, they drank the same amount of red wine but this time it was alcohol free. Finally, they spent 20 days quaffing up to 100 millilitres of gin a day.

Researchers discovered that gut bacteria changed in the different study phases. Compared with the “washout” phase, consumption of red wine – with or without alcohol – was linked to an increase in healthy gut flora. In addition, red wine seemed to reduce blood pressure as well as levels of triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol.

Gin, however, appeared to offer minimal benefits.

Red wine is a popular research topic – and not because scientists are determined to justify their drinking habits. Resveratrol, a naturally occurring chemical found in red wine, has potential as a future therapy for conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and heart disease, according to researchers from the National Institutes of Health in the United States.

Nevertheless, it may be premature to uncork extra bottles in the name of digestive health. Alcohol isn’t recommended for people with peptic ulcers, for example, since alcohol increases stomach acid and also relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, causing acid reflux.

Moreover, the finding that red wine supports intestinal health is based on a study involving just 10 healthy men.

Even so, oenophiles won’t need any more proof that red wine should be part of a balanced diet.

Has research on the health benefits of red wine changed your drinking habits? Does red wine agree with you?

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