What it’s doing in your gut might be key

Boozing too much can definitely hurt your health, but moderate drinking may have a protective effect, especially to your heart, as researchers from the U.K. recently reported.

Now, it seems like the positive effects of alcohol might extend to other parts of your body, too: Moderate red wine consumption may protect your brain cells, a new study in Frontiers in Nutrition suggests.

In the study, researchers selected certain compounds that are present in the poop and urine of people who regularly drink a moderate amount of red wine—meaning the “leftovers” after your gut metabolizes, or breaks down, the wine.

Then, they added these compounds to human neurons, or nerve cells in the brain. After subjecting them to the kinds of stressful conditions that would normally mess with the cells or even kill them—mimicking the initial stages of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s—the researchers discovered that the red-wine metabolites actually protected the neurons from dying.

That shows that your gut is playing a vital role in the brain-protecting process, the researchers say in a press release. The exact composition of red-wine metabolites is vital in fighting off neuron death—and that depends on the specific makeup of the helpful bugs in your gut that helps break down food and drink.

And what you eat can influence your gut microbiota: That’s why further research will be done to understand more about how specific aspects of your diet can promote a healthy brain.

Article originally published on menshealth.com