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Experts say if you choose to drink alcohol, red wine is probably the best choice. Getty Images
  • Researchers say people who drink a moderate amount of red wine have better gut health.
  • They add that red wine is also associated with lower body mass index and lower levels of bad cholesterol.
  • Experts caution that in general drinking alcohol does raise a person’s risk for all types of cancer.

If you’re going to drink alcohol, make it red wine.

That’s been the growing consensus for a while, and a new study adds to that argument.

Researchers in the United Kingdom say that people in their study who drank red wine had healthier levels of bacteria in their gut than people who drank other types of alcohol.

They also found drinking red wine was associated with lower body mass index — a measure of obesity — and lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

The findings build off previous findings about the potential health benefits of drinking red wine — at least compared to the benefits of drinking other types of alcohol.

“If you had to choose one type of alcohol, red wine would be the one to pick,” Caroline Le Roy, PhD, a researcher at King’s College London and first author of the new study, told Healthline.

“We also saw even a low amount of red wine seemed to have an effect,” she added. “So if you choose to drink red wine, drink in moderation because that’s all you probably need.”

Alcohol — including red wine — can raise your chances of several types of cancer.

“The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of cancer,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states.

The agency also says long-term alcohol use can lead to problems with your heart, liver, gut, and memory. It can also lead to social problems, such as lost productivity or unemployment.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines recommend that “if alcohol is consumed” it should be no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.

They also recommend that people who don’t drink alcohol don’t start — “for any reason.”

If you do drink, the emerging consensus appears to be to make those one or two drinks red wine.

A review of recent studies last year, for example, found one to two glasses of wine a day has been associated with “human health promotion” as well as disease prevention and outcomes.

A 2016 study found that people with conditions such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar saw improvements in the levels of beneficial bacteria in their gut after drinking red wine.

Having better gut “microbiota” of bacteria has been linked to better heart health and metabolism.

In the most recent study, Dr. Le Roy and her colleagues found people who drank red wine had not only improved gut microbiota but had lower body mass index (BMI) and lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, which can cause heart disease.

Those last two observations, she said, “might be partly due to gut microbiota diversity.”

But, Le Roy said, “We think it’s connected because we know gut microbiota is involved in heart disease.”

The potential link between red wine and gut health could help explain the other big potential benefit red wine has been linked to, which is heart health.

Some studies have found people who drink moderate amounts of red wine have lower rates of heart disease and high blood pressure.

But like the other wine health claims, this is still a matter of debate.

The American Heart Association says that “the linkage reported in many of these studies may be due to other lifestyle factors rather than alcohol. Such factors may include increased physical activity, and a diet high in fruits and vegetables and lower in saturated fats.”

That last point is what Le Roy thinks likely explains the benefits associated with red wine in her study.

Polyphenols, a chemical with antioxidant and other beneficial properties, are found in red wine in much higher numbers than other types of alcohol, including white wine.

That’s likely due to the fact that white wine is typically made without the grape skins, Le Roy said.

She said there are seven times more polyphenols in red wine than white and she believes that’s what explains the association with better gut bacteria.

“Many studies have shown polyphenols have an effect on gut microbiota,” Le Roy said.

But polyphenols are also found in berries, chocolate, beans, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.