A Large Microbiome Study Says Wine and Coffee Help Keep Your Gut Bacteria Diverse and Healthy

A new study out of the Netherlands found 60 dietary factors—including wine consumption—that can influence gut bacteria diversity. Regis Duvignau/Reuters

A version of this article first appeared on Medical Daily.

Scientists say that a diverse gut microbiome is a healthy one, and it turns out that your lifestyle plays a huge role in shaping that. In a new study out of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, researchers examined specific foods and beverages that either contributed to or impaired microbiota diversity, and found that coffee, wine and tea all helped improve people's gut bacteria.

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

For the study, published April 29 in Science, the researchers focused on 1,135 healthy people who were involved in the LifeLines program in the Northern Netherlands, taking stool samples that would allow them to analyze the DNA of the gut bacteria. They "mapped all the bacterial DNA to gain much more detailed information about bacteria types," said Cisca Wijmenga, lead author of the study, in the press release. Information about the gut bacteria DNA allowed the researchers to see what types of lifestyle factors – like diet or medications – contributed to diversity in the gut.

They found that people who regularly ate yogurt and buttermilk, or drank coffee, wine and tea, had more diverse microbiomes. Consuming plenty of carbs or low-fiber foods, meanwhile, has been correlated to gut bacteria depletion.

Research into gut microbiota could provide clues for new obesity therapies in the future. For example, scientists have already discovered that obesity can be mitigated by fecal transplants in which gut bacteria from a healthy, thin person are transplanted into the intestines of an obese person.

The notion of developing a specific diet to improve gut diversity, meanwhile, may also help combat obesity — as well as improve a person's health in a variety of other ways. For example, a diverse and healthy gut microbiome can boost the immune system as well as regulate blood pressure. Having a healthy gut microbiome has also been shown to improve mood and mental health.

In addition to wine, coffee and tea, other foods that help the gut—often referred to as probiotics—include yogurt, fermented cabbage (and anything fermented, really), kombucha and miso soup. Eating a variety of these, and steering away from foods heavy in salt, sugar, and fat, will improve your intestinal health. However, when it comes to other types of food like fruits and vegetables, "we don't know the answer," Jingyuan Fu, associate professor at the University of Groningen and an author of the study, told the Los Angeles Times. "We can suggest that changes in fiber content and carbohydrate composition are playing a role, but this should be studied in detail in respect to every food item."