We finally know why wine gives you a headache… and no, it’s not a question of quantity!

We finally know why wine gives you a headache... and no, it's not a question of quantity!

Those who regularly drink different types of alcohol know: red wine has the ability to give a headache, without us really knowing why. American researchers have solved the mystery and their study points to a molecule present in the drink. The point of view of Dr Christophe de Jaeger, physiologist and member of the TipsForWomens expert committee.

A glass of red wine can give you a headache shortly after drinking. You have probably noticed it, without knowing why. Researchers from the University of California have solved the mystery by studying a dozen compounds in the drink. And although tannins, flavonoids or sulphites in wine are regularly blamed, it seems that another molecule is actually responsible.

Quercetin, a molecule present in the skin and grape seeds

A natural antioxidant, quercetin is a substance present in the skin and grape seeds. Found almost exclusively in red wine, it is transformed in the body into various substances. One of them, quercetin glucuronide, is particularly effective at blocking the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde to acetate. And that could explain the headaches.

Indeed, by removing this enzyme, acetaldehyde accumulates in the bloodstream. And at high levels, it causes headaches, nausea, and sweating. “We think we are finally on the right track to explaining this thousand-year-old mystery.” indicates Morris Levin, director of the “Headache Center” at the University of California, in The Guardian.

Some wines hurt your head more than others

The quantity of quercetin therefore plays a role in the appearance of these symptoms. And there would be more in wines made from sun-drenched grapes. According to researchers, certain red wines contain five times more than others.

They also note that this phenomenon does not affect all drinkers. “The next step is to carry out scientific tests on people who develop these headaches.” therefore adds Morris Levin. “It will potentially be very useful for people who drink red wine to be able to choose wines that are less likely to cause headaches. Additionally, winemakers can use our results to reduce quercetin in their wines.”.

Questioned, Dr. Christophe de Jaeger, physiologist, believes that the results of this study are consistent. “Once this enzymatic reaction is discovered, the question now becomes whether it should be blocked, in order to allow greater tolerance to alcohol and red wine in particular?” asks the specialist. “This could make alcohol consumption possible for people who can no longer drink it, for example”.

Before emphasizing that human beings are naturally well constituted. “For the physiologist that I am, knowing that there is a natural mechanism for limiting alcohol consumption pleases me, because alcohol remains a toxic agent that is harmful to healthy longevity,” he concludes.