Science: drinking wine and coffee is good for your gut

A new study identifies key dietary factors that lead to healthy microbes in your gut.

If you love wine or coffee, you are in luck, say new findings from researchers at the University of Groningen in Netherlands. Drinking such beverages has been shown to lead to healthier and more diverse microbes in your gut.

“In total we found 60 dietary factors that influence diversity," said one of the authors of the study, Dr. Alexandra Zhernakova, said in a statement. "But there is good correlation between diversity and health: Greater diversity is better."

The name for the community of generally beneficial bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in your gut is microbiome. Your microbiome helps you process food, regulate the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties. Prior research has shown that these microbes (which number in the trillions) were linked to such ailments as mood disorders, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and others. 

Zhernakova and her colleagues helped understand what a healthy microbiome should look like by analyzing stool samples of “normal” 1,135 Dutch people. 

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to systematically assess such a broad range of host and environmental factors in relation to gut microbiome and at such a large scale," said Jingyuan Fu, a systems geneticist at who worked with Zhernakova.

After analyzing the samples and comparing them to collected data in another study, scientists concluded that eating fruits, vegetables and yogurt had a positive effect on microbial diversity. The same was true of drinking wine, coffee, tea and buttermilk.  Interestingly, being on a carb-heavy diet, consuming sugary soda drinks, snacks, and whole milk led to lower levels of diversity.   

19 different kinds of medicine were also found to affect the microbiome’s diversity. Medications like antibiotics, laxatives, antidepressants, antihistamines and hormones used for birth control.  

Additional findings included the fact that women had more microbial diversity than men, while older people out-diversified the younger. Breast-fed babies were not found to have more microbial diversity when they grew up.

While there is still much work to be done for scientists to understand how the a healthy microbiome contributes to a healthy body, Fu underscored that "It is becoming more and more clear that the gut microbiome serves as a sort of fingerprint that captures all kinds of signals about host health.”

While it is doubtful these researchers would suggest over-caffeinating and binge drinking would improve your gut's bacteria, a moderate consumption of these beverages sounds all the more appealing. Cheers to that!

Gisele Bündchen appreciates wine.

The study is available to read here.

Why a great education means engaging with controversy

Jonathan Zimmerman explains why teachers should invite, not censor, tough classroom debates.

Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • During times of war or national crisis in the U.S., school boards and officials are much more wary about allowing teachers and kids to say what they think.
  • If our teachers avoid controversial questions in the classroom, kids won't get the experience they need to know how to engage with difficult questions and with criticism.
  • Jonathan Zimmerman argues that controversial issues should be taught in schools as they naturally arise. Otherwise kids will learn from TV news what politics looks like – which is more often a rant than a healthy debate.
Keep reading Show less

Are these 100 people killing the planet?

Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Image: Jordan Engel, reused via Decolonial Media License 0.1
Strange Maps
  • Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
  • This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
  • The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
Keep reading Show less

SpaceX catches Falcon Heavy nosecone with net-outfitted boat

It marks another milestone in SpaceX's long-standing effort to make spaceflight cheaper.

Technology & Innovation
  • SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy into space early Tuesday morning.
  • A part of its nosecone – known as a fairing – descended back to Earth using special parachutes.
  • A net-outfitted boat in the Atlantic Ocean successfully caught the reusable fairing, likely saving the company millions of dollars.
Keep reading Show less