A recent study published in ‘Science Advances’ has shed light on why some people cannot drink red wine, even in small quantities, without experiencing a headache. According to the study, a flavanol found naturally in red wines, called quercetin, is responsible for interfering with the proper metabolism of alcohol and causing headaches.
Quercetin is present in all types of fruits and vegetables, including grapes, and is considered a healthy antioxidant that is even consumed as a supplement. However, when metabolized with alcohol, it can be problematic. When it reaches the bloodstream, quercetin is converted into quercetin glucuronide and blocks the metabolism of alcohol. The buildup of acetaldehyde toxin causes redness, headache, and nausea.
This study has important implications for people who are susceptible to red wine headaches as they now have a better understanding of what causes their symptoms. It also highlights the need for further research on the different factors that contribute to red wine headaches, such as why some people seem more susceptible than others and whether there are specific enzymes that are more easily inhibited by quercetin or if this population is simply more easily affected by the buildup of acetaldehyde toxins.