Phenolic Flavonoids: The Culprit Behind Swift Wine Headaches, According to Food Science Researchers

SAN FRANCISCO, California – For centuries, red wine has been celebrated as a cure for various ailments, but it also has a reputation for causing headaches. Now, a team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and the University of California, Davis, believe they may have uncovered the reason behind these wine-induced headaches.

Despite extensive research, the specific compound responsible for triggering headaches after drinking red wine has remained elusive. However, the researchers have focused on phenolic flavonoids, which are derived from grape seeds and skin and are present in higher levels in red wines compared to whites.

The scientists discovered that a flavanol called quercetin, which is almost exclusively found in red wine, may be the culprit. When processed in the body, quercetin glucuronide has been found to effectively block the enzyme responsible for converting acetaldehyde into acetate, causing toxic acetaldehyde to build up in the bloodstream.

This accumulation of toxic acetaldehyde could lead to headaches, nausea, facial flushing, and sweating. The researchers believe that susceptible individuals, especially those prone to migraines, may be particularly affected by the presence of quercetin in red wine.

The team is now planning to conduct a clinical trial to further test their theory and determine the effects of red wines with varying levels of quercetin. The results of this trial could help individuals make informed choices about the red wines they drink and potentially lead to the development of wines with reduced quercetin levels.

Ultimately, the goal of the research is to provide valuable insights for both consumers and winemakers, with the potential for reducing the occurrence of red wine-induced headaches and improving overall wine-drinking experiences.