Non-sequiter nutrition IV. in vino veritas

The French Paradox is neither a paradox nor French, really.  Red wine isn’t saving the French from a saturated-fat induced heart attack epidemic….  Not to take anything away from red wine, however, as the metabolic effects of red wine (and alcohol in general) are rather interesting.

Background info: alcohol (ethanol) metabolism produces NADH (stick with me here, this article doesn’t get all technical on you I promise).

NADH inhibits gluconeogenesis (Krebs et al., 1969); as such, alcohol lowers blood glucose, regardless of whether if it’s pinot, cabernet, or straight moonshine (Harold  R. Murdock, 1971).

And those magical tannins found in red wine add to the anti-hyperglycemic effect of wine.  In the figure below (Gin et al., 1999, no pun intended), blood glucose was equally blunted in subjects who ate a meal with 2 glasses of wine or took a pill containing an equivalent amount of tannins (150 mg):

The next chapter in this book: you guessed it, bifidobacteria!

Influence of red wine polyphenols and ethanol on the gut microbiota ecology and biochemical biomarkers (Queipo-Ortuno et al., 2012)

Ten healthy men were randomly assigned in a three-way crossover study to drink red wine, dealcoholized red wine, or gin for 3 weeks.  The amount of alcohol amounted to ~ 2-3 servings per day. To confirm compliance (which shouldn’t have been a problem, they measured urinary excretion of resveratrol, the magical anti-aging pro-all-things-good miracle compound:

Bs, baseline; Wda, dealcoholized red wine; Wa, wine; G, gin.  Dealcoholized red wine has all the resveratrol but none of the alcohol, so resveratrol was increased just as much in this group as it was in those who got the real thing.  And gin has no resveratrol, so none appeared in the urine.  This isn’t enough alcohol to cause liver damage, but the upward trend in liver enzymes in the gin drinkers suggest they were equally compliant:

Not sure things looked a little worse on the baseline alcohol-free diet; maybe those non-alcohol kilocalories were being replaced with…

but that’s neither here nor there (you be the judge).  But what about those bugs?

An increase in bifidobacteria from 7.12 to 9.93 log10 translates to something along the lines of a 10,000% increase!  This was likely due to the resveratrol or some other magical red wine compounds because it happened in both red wine groups but not the gin group (white wine might be similar to gin in this regard).  For the record, a 10,000% increase is in the ballpark of inulin and GOS; aka the big leagues.

Moderation?  According to Augusto di Castelnuovo (circa 2006), 2-3 drinks per day significantly reduced the risk of total mortality.

Wine, beer, or gin?  According to Gronbaek and colleagues (1995), a study on some 13,000 Danes suggested most of the benefits are reaped with wine:

In sum, improved glycemic parameters, superior gut bacteria profile, and reduced risk of mortality..  I’ve just updated my definition of “moderation” to “4.”

calories proper



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  • So…if you like red wine, take some I guess 🙂

  • Right on the spot though not news. Here is the study that summarized that moderate drinkers live longest, HARD drinkers -second and non- drinkers…uhhhm, last ( Indeed, red wine shows some extra benefits, however my opinion is either resveratrol but more likely anthocyanin that matters. Acetatoacetate (ethanol) does inhibit glycolysis and mito oxidative stress by increasing cytosol NADH+ and reducing innermembrane NADPH+ ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species, H2O2- superoxide) and mitochondrial damage (Harman, FROSMT, revisited). The biochemical cellular mechanism is based on reduction of cytosol pH by acetatoacetate and also by fat-soluble anti-oxidants( weak acids as resveratrol and anthocyanin, etc) below 7.2 thus depolarizing mitochondria aand reducing proton leak, and most importantly lowering Tc (core body temperature) and inflammation, activating LKB-1 AMPK and increasing threshold for opening of TRPV1 (pain/heat) neurons/Ca+ channels, the reason ethanol acts as pain-killer and anesthetic( think Westerners and War movies, energy booster, life-saver in hypothermia (think, Swiss Alps and San Bernard dogs), the oldest living person in the world (Jean Calment) used to drink port wine all her life, the oldest living man in the world Shigechiyo Izumi drank barley whiskey all his life too. Ehhh, what shall I say more.

    • Hi Ilya, thanks for links and you make some Interesting points. I agree the magic of red wine is likely not one molecule, but rather a complex mixture of many polyphenols / anthocyanins / resveratrol metabolites (although I think there’s a flaw to that Swiss Alps and Saint Bernard dog theory!)

      • Bill, don’t touch the good ole San Bernard dog, it was selectively bred so big to carry barrels of rum up and down the Swiss Alps.There ain’t no other explanation of its size :))). If you check the Food sources of anthocyanin in WiKipedea (add cocoa, dark chocolate to them) you will find why I think it’s the more likely agent. Meantime enjoy the drinks.

  • Miodrag Mili?

    Pauling wrote 40 years ago that alcohol is more healthy then non-drinking or tea, although his opinion was that its general property of ethanol, and that there is no big difference between type of alcohol (which was understanding given the lack of research that we have nowdays).

    So where is that limit ? How much is too much and starts to kill good bacteria, for instance by proliferating candida? Any info on that ?

    • More good questions. When it comes to mortality, epidemiological studies suggest around 3-4 drinks per day. But I’ve never seen anything about pathological effects on gut bacteria. WRT resveratrol, agreed, the effects in mice were fantastic but the human studies haven’t been too promising.

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  • George

    How far is the antigluconeogenic effect of moderate drinking due to the rise in NADH? Cells have mechanisms to cope with this – including ketogenesis (because the conversion of acetoacetate to B-OHB regenerates NAD+).
    Hence alcoholic fatty liver and alcoholic ketoacidosis; without NAD+ fats can’t be fully oxidised, are easier to make or make ketones from.

    A review of polyphenols and glucose.
    Note there is no mention of glycogenolysis – inhibiting this would be the most rapid way to lower BG, GNG is a slower process.
    “Unlike polyphenols discussed above, resveratrol was shown to have opposite effects and increase the expression and activity of gluconeogenetic enzymes.”

    I guess this is one area where the concept of moderation – some, not none, and not all the time – is actually meaningful.

    • “How far is the antigluconeogenic effect of moderate drinking due to the rise in NADH?”

      Krebs did a lot of the early work on this, relatively simple MOA. Could be wrong, but makes sense!

      “I guess this is one area where the concept of moderation – some, not none, and not all the time – is actually meaningful.”

      And some saturated fats for protection against alcohol-induced liver damage