Why does red wine give some people a headache?

No matter how good it is, For some people, drinking red wine, even in small amounts, gives them a headache., a pain that appears between half an hour and three hours after drinking a glass of wine. For decades, science has been trying to find out why.

A study published this Monday in the journal Scientific Reports and led by scientists from the University of California (UC) at Davisassures that a natural substance in red wine itself could be the culprit.


Scientists did a study, even on people who don’t get headaches when drinking small amounts of other alcoholic beverages, and found that quercetin, a flavanol in red wine, could interfere with the proper metabolism of alcohol and cause headaches.

Quercetin, found in all types of fruits and vegetables, including grapes, is a healthy antioxidant that is also sold as a supplement. But when it is metabolized with alcohol, it can cause problems.

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“When it enters the bloodstream, the body converts it into a different form called quercetin glucuronide.”explains Andrew Waterhouse, chemist, corresponding author, and professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis.

“As a result, people can end up accumulating acetaldehyde, which is an irritating and inflammatory toxin that at high levels can cause facial flushing, headache and nausea.”explains lead author Apramita Devi, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis.

Prone people

The drug disulfiram, which is prescribed to alcoholics to prevent them from drinking, causes these same symptoms because, according to Waterhouse, the drug also causes the toxin accumulates in the body when normally an enzyme in the body would be responsible for breaking it down.

About 40% of the East Asian population also has an enzyme that does not work very well, which leads to the accumulation of acetaldehyde in the body.

“We believe that when susceptible people consume wine with even modest amounts of quercetin, they suffer headaches, especially if they suffer from migraines or other primary headache conditions,” said co-author Morris Levin of the University of California at San Francisco.

“We believe that we are finally on the right path to explaining this ancient mystery. The next step will be to test it scientifically in people who develop these headaches,” he concludes.

(With information from EFE)