Enjoying a glass of red wine is a simple pleasure in life. In Britain, red wine is a hugely popular alcoholic drink, consumed by an estimated 8.9 million people a year.
At the same time, health is a huge priority for many Britons and cutting down on alcohol is one of many ways to improve overall health and wellbeing.
New research suggests that removing the largest glass of wine from sale in pubs, bars and restaurants led to a fall in the total amount people drink by 7.6% - which could prove effective to bring down alcohol consumption in line with the country’s health improvement targets.
A four-week trial in 1 bars, pubs and restaurants saw the largest measure of wine, a 250ml glass, taken off the menu, leaving the 125ml and 175ml glasses. A 250ml glass is equivalent to a third of a bottle of wine.
During the trial, which was monitored by researchers at the University of Cambridge, customers drank less wine overall even though they bought the same amount of wine by the bottle.
Professor Dame Theresa Marteau, the study’s lead author, said her research was focused on "whether or not we can reverse-engineer our environments to see whether we can reduce our consumption to improve everybody’s health".
The venues that took part in the trial found that most of their customers were unbothered by the change and were happy with smaller glasses of wine.
Cheers to the gut microbiome
Sizing down wine glasses could have a whole host of health benefits. The British Heart Foundation says there is some evidence that a moderate intake of red wine could bring a small reduction in heart disease risk.
We probably don’t associate red wine with gut health. But some research shows that sipping the occasional glass of red wine could be better for our gut microbiome compared to other types of alcohol.
A 2019 study by scientists at King’s College London examined how beer, cider, red wine, white wine and spirits affected the gut microbiome.
The gut microbiome refers to the microorganisms that live in your digestive system. Some of these gut bacteria are more beneficial than others, and recent research has shown that maintaining a healthy gut microbiome can result in better overall health and wellbeing.
The study found that the gut microbiome of participants who drank red wine were more diverse compared to those who drank the other alcoholic beverages. Scientists speculated that this could be because red wine has a higher amount of polyphenols, which act as an antioxidant.
Dr Caroline Le Roy, first author of the study, said: "While we have long known of the unexplained benefits of red wine on heart health, this study shows that moderate red wine consumption is associated with greater diversity and a healthier gut microbiota that partly explain its long-debated beneficial effects on health."
But don’t go pouring yourself a big glass just yet - you don’t need to drink a lot of red wine to see the potential benefits on your gut health, and you should always drink in moderation.
Dr Le Roy said that drinking red wine "rarely, such as once every two weeks, seems to be enough to observe an effect".
"If you must choose one alcoholic drink today, red wine is the one to pick as it seems to potentially exert a beneficial effect on you and your gut microbes, which in turn may also help weight and risk of heart disease. However, it is still advised to consume alcohol with moderation."
Gut health and alcohol
Experts warn that excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to a number of diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. It has also been linked to some cancers.
When it comes to your gut health, drinking too much alcohol can also wreak havoc. Dr Joseph Ambani from Glowbar previously told Yahoo UK: "Alcohol, especially when consumed excessively, can be a formidable disruptor of gut harmony.
"It can alter the composition and diversity of the gut microbiome, often leading to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and a decrease in beneficial ones.
"This dysbiosis can trigger inflammation, a root cause of many gut-related disorders."
So it's really important to drink within the guidelines set out by the NHS.
The health service says that men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis, and you should spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week.
Read more about gut health:
How your gut health affects your mental health (Yahoo Life UK, 4-min read)
Gut health: Foods to eat and avoid to improve your wellbeing (Yahoo Life UK, 8-min read)
How to nurture your immune system and gut at the same time (Yahoo Life UK, 4-min read)