Versão em Português

Study provides new evidence on why red wine can give you a headache

22 Dezembro 2023

A recent study points out that quercetin, a flavonoid abundant in fruits, may also be responsible for headaches when drinking red wine.


The short answer to the headache we get when we drink red wine is that this is alcohol's fault! The ethanol present in wine is largely responsible for headaches, as it is a toxic substance for the body. But this may not explain the fact that many people experience headaches with low doses of red wine, and do not feel the same way with white wine or beer. So what would be the reason for this?

Recently, the media reported a new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports (1), which points out that a substance present in greater quantities in red wine, quercetin, a flavonoid abundant in fruits and vegetables, is responsible for inhibiting the ALDH2 enzyme, responsible for metabolizing alcohol. The authors carried out an in vitro analysis of the interaction between the ALDH2 enzyme and quercetin, observing that higher levels of quercetin were responsible for a greater inhibition of the ALDH2 enzyme, resulting in high levels of acetaldehyde in the body, which would lead to the appearance of headaches in susceptible individuals. However, as this is an in vitro study, the authors also reinforce that tests on humans are necessary to better evaluate this hypothesis.

However, this study highlights that other substances present in alcoholic beverages can interact with alcohol metabolism in our body. But be careful: the main substance responsible for headaches is alcohol! And that's why, in high doses, any alcoholic drink can cause a headache!

Finally, it is important to consider that alcohol-induced headaches go far beyond the subjective sensation of discomfort. A review of recent scientific literature (2) points out that alcohol is responsible for neuroinflammatory processes that may have broader implications than headaches (3), such as damage to nervous tissue and cognitive impairment. 


Additional Info

  • Referências:
    1. Devi, A., Levin, M. & Waterhouse, A.L. Inhibition of ALDH2 by quercetin glucuronide suggests a new hypothesis to explain red wine headaches. Sci Rep13, 19503 (2023).
    2. Zhu, H.; Xing, Y.; Akan, O.D.; Yang, T. Alcohol-Induced Headache with Neuroinflammation: Recent Progress. Fermentation2023, 9, 184.
    3. DiSabato DJ, Quan N, Godbout JP. Neuroinflammation: the devil is in the details. J Neurochem. 2016 Oct;139 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):136-153. doi: 10.1111/jnc.13607. Epub 2016 May 4. PMID: 26990767; PMCID: PMC5025335.

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