The mystery behind wine headaches, particularly associated with red wine, may be linked to the antioxidant quercetin, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports. While the exact cause of wine-induced headaches has long puzzled scientists, the research suggests that quercetin, found in grape skins, may influence how the body processes alcohol, leading to the accumulation of a toxic byproduct that triggers headaches.
Although several theories, including allergies to histamines and sulfites, have been proposed to explain wine headaches, none have provided conclusive evidence. The study suggests that the combination of alcohol and quercetin, a polyphenol with antioxidant properties, may play a role in this phenomenon. Quercetin is produced by grapes in response to sunlight exposure, and wines from grapes grown in sun-exposed clusters, such as Napa Valley cabernets, may contain higher levels of quercetin.
The research team plans to conduct clinical trials to further investigate the headache-inducing effects of red wines with varying quercetin levels. If validated, this hypothesis could offer insights for individuals seeking to avoid red wine-induced headaches and guide winemakers in producing wines with reduced quercetin content.
While the study provides a new perspective on the potential causes of wine headaches, further research is needed to establish the link between quercetin and this common complaint.