Pour and Punishment: Decoding the Mystery Behind Red Wine Headaches

By: | November 24th, 2023

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Alcoholic drinks are known for their side effects, including headaches and nausea. Among them, red wine has gained a particularly infamous reputation for causing headaches in some individuals over the centuries, standing out as a beverage associated with this discomfort more than others.

The connection between red wine and headaches has been a topic of discussion and research for many years but the exact reason for this phenomenon is not fully understood.

What in wine causes headaches?

In a recent study, scientists at the University of California, Davis identified that a natural flavanol present in red wines has the potential to disrupt alcohol metabolism, possibly resulting in headaches.

Quercetin, a flavanol is the headache culprit

Named quercetin, this flavanol occurs naturally in various fruits and vegetables, including grapes. Often recognized as a beneficial antioxidant and even found in supplement form, its interaction with alcohol metabolism can pose challenges.

Quercetin is found in higher concentrations in red wine compared to white wine. It can impede the metabolism of alcohol, leading to the buildup of a toxin known as acetaldehyde. Elevated levels of acetaldehyde induce symptoms such as headaches, flushing, and nausea.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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