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Researchers May Have Found The Answer To Why Red Wine Causes Headaches

Researchers May Have Found The Answer To Why Red Wine Causes Headaches
When people drink red wine with "even modest amounts of quercetin", they can get a headache, especially if they are already prone to migraines. (Photo: Freepik)

The research has found phenolic flavonoids -- compounds derived from grape seeds and skin -- can be 10 times higher in red wines as compared to white wines.

Written by Prerna Mittra |Updated : November 22, 2023 8:31 PM IST

Imagine going to someone's house for a get-together. You are served delectable food and to wash it all down, you take sips of the most expensive and imported wine that the host serves. A few gulps, and you feel really good. But, a few glasses later, you get a peculiar headache. Why does it always happen? In case you have been wondering this for all these years, there is finally some good news. According to a Guardian report, researchers have been able to find the reason as to why wine, particularly red wine, causes these aches.

The research, conducted by US researchers and published in Scientific Reports, has found that phenolic flavonoids -- compounds derived from grape seeds and skin, which contribute to red wine's colour and taste -- can be 10 times higher in red wines as compared to white wines, explaining why it could be the prime cause of the immediate headaches.

It is simple chemistry. Per the research, when people consume wine, alcohol is metabolised to acetate in two steps: first, alcohol is converted from ethanol to acetaldehyde, and second, acetaldehyde changes to acetate. There are specific enzymes in the liver that make it happen.

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[caption id="attachment_1035594" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Red Wine, causes of headache, Headaches, Alcohol, consumption of red wine, red wine causing headaches, research on red wine, odd headaches, red wine drinking and nausea Lab tests were done on more than a dozen compounds in red wine during the research, a flavanol called quercetin stood out. (Photo: Freepik)[/caption]

According to the Guardian report, when lab tests were done on more than a dozen compounds in red wine during the research, a flavanol called quercetin stood out. It is processed in the body into various substances, one of which is 'quercetin glucuronide' that effectively blocks the enzyme that generally converts acetaldehyde into acetate.

Now, since it is blocked out, toxic acetaldehyde can build up in the bloodstream, the scientists say, which can eventually lead to headaches, nausea, sweating and face flushing when one consumes red wine.

The report also mentions that when people drink red wine with "even modest amounts of quercetin", they can get a headache, especially if they are already prone to migraines -- a condition that causes severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation on one side of the head.