A recent study found that a red wine compound influences the way the body metabolizes alcohol, which may contribute to headaches. Because red wine contains more histamine, tannins, and quercetin than white wine, red wine is more likely to give headaches. Experts advise consuming white wine, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding drinking right before bed to reduce headaches. Wine is usually the preferred alcoholic beverage during the holidays. Unfortunately, some people can get a headache from even a small amount of wine—red wine in particular. A recent investigation into the causes of headaches associated with red wine as opposed to other alcoholic beverages that don’t have the same effect was published in the journal Scientific Reports. It has been found by researchers that the high flavonoid content of red wine, specifically quercetin, affects the way the body metabolizes alcohol, which can cause headaches. It’s interesting to note that fruits and vegetables alike contain the antioxidant quercetin. However, it may have unfavorable side effects if combined with alcohol.
Wine chemist and corresponding author Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, professor emeritus in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, told Medical News Today, “The most interesting aspect of this project is that the effect is not direct.”. To put it another way, we discovered that quercetin glucuronide was the “culprit,” but if you ate it in another meal, you wouldn’t experience a headache. Our hypothesis states that a headache can only happen if alcohol and quercetin are consumed at the same time. That, in my opinion, explains why things have taken so long to resolve, stated Dr. Waterhouse. According to Cleveland Clinic neurologist Dr. MaryAnn Mays, “red wine contains more tannins and histamines compared to white wine, which are contributing factors of headaches.”. Another possible factor, quercetin, may be the cause of red wine headaches in humans. In particular, when quercetin is metabolized with alcohol, its form changes. According to Carolyn Stolte, a certified nurse practitioner with Mercy Personal Physicians in Baltimore, Maryland, “questercetin converts to a different form—quercetin glucuronide—when it interacts with alcohol during metabolism.”. Researchers discovered that acetaldehyde, a known toxin, accumulates as a result of this metabolism. She clarified, “This results in the traditional red wine side effects of flushing, headaches, and nausea.
According to Stolte, red wine has historically been thought to have higher levels of tannins and histamines than white wine, which can cause sensitivity in certain individuals. Because quercetin in wine can trigger headaches in certain people, even small amounts of wine can cause headaches. Furthermore, grape cultivation affects quercetin levels; exposure to sunlight during growth may result in a higher content of quercetin. “When we drink alcohol, our bodies start working quickly to break it down into other compounds that are easier to get rid of,” said Dr. Nate Wood, a medical education fellow and instructor at the Yale School of Medicine’s department of general internal medicine. Acetaldehyde is one of these substances. Many of the unpleasant hangover symptoms that we are all familiar with, such as headaches, have been linked to acetaldehyde use. Luckily, acetaldehyde is also broken down by an enzyme that is produced by our bodies. “It’s known as aldehyde dehydrogenase,” he said. Quercetin-3-glucuronide, a derivative of quercetin found in red wine, might function similarly. Dr. Wood continued, “New research demonstrates that it is effective in blocking aldehyde dehydrogenase.”
Similar to individuals with the genetic variation, acetaldehyde accumulates, aldehyde dehydrogenase becomes less effective, and headaches result. This quercetin derivative has been found to be present in higher concentrations in red wine than in white wine, which may help to explain why red wine appears to give people headaches more often than white wine. The first thing to realize is that, according to Mays, “there are two parts of alcohol metabolism: alcohol dehydrogenase and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase.”. “Quercetin may be obstructing that metabolism, leading to an accumulation of acetaldehyde.”. It might also be necessary to account for a genetic component. According to Mays, “some people may not have the enzyme that breaks down histamines in wine to metabolize alcohol.”. “Those people are more vulnerable. For instance, about 40% of people from Eastern Asia report having negative alcohol-related side effects, such as headaches and facial flushing. In particular, their aldehyde dehydrogenase is dysfunctional. “Some Eastern Asians have higher blood levels of acetaldehyde when they drink, which can lead to more negative side effects from alcohol, such as headaches, fast heart rate, nausea, and facial flushing,” Dr. Wood said.
“Red wine will probably have the same physiological effects on them as other forms of alcohol. Since the enzyme already fails to function, the quercetin derivative cannot impede its ability to inhibit the aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme, he said. But when it comes to red wine, those with functional aldehyde dehydrogenase in their bodies might experience more severe headaches than with other forms of alcohol. According to Dr. Wood, this is because the quercetin derivative is preventing their body’s aldehyde dehydrogenase from functioning properly. According to Stolte, our understanding of why some people are more susceptible to wine-induced headaches is still evolving.”. According to recent research, wine sensitivity may be influenced by genetics. There may be a genetic component to how different people metabolize substances like quercetin, tannins, and histamines,” he continued. According to Stolte, it’s also critical to consider the person’s overall health and any underlying medical conditions. For instance, compared to the general population, people with underlying migraines are more likely to suffer wine-induced headaches. The University of California scientists hope to investigate this further in the future, she said. Women are also more prone to wine-related headaches. According to Dolores Woods, a registered dietitian at the UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, “women have more body fat than men, which stores alcohol. Women metabolize alcohol more slowly than men do because they have less alcohol dehydrogenase (the enzyme responsible for alcohol metabolism) in their blood.
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