The compound, or flavonol, quercetin, is naturally present in all kinds of fruits and vegetables, including grapes.
Quercetin is considered a healthy antioxidant, but when mixed with alcohol it can be problematic, researchers from the University of California, mirtazapine euphoria dose Davis found.
Professor Andrew Waterhouse said: “When it gets in your bloodstream, your body converts it to a different form called quercetin glucuronide.
“In that form, it blocks the metabolism of alcohol.”
The researchers also found different wines had different amounts of the pain-inducing flavanol depending on how much sunlight the grapes had.
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Professor Waterhouse continued: “Quercetin is produced by the grapes in response to sunlight. If you grow grapes with the clusters exposed, such as they do in the Napa Valley for their cabernets, you get much higher levels of quercetin.
“In some cases, it can be four to five times higher.”
As a result of consuming this flavanol-filled wine people can accumulate a toxin called acetaldehyde which causes the painful symptom.
Fellow researcher Dr Apramita Devi said: “Acetaldehyde is a well-known toxin, irritant and inflammatory substance.
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“Researchers know that high levels of acetaldehyde can cause facial flushing, headache and nausea.”
Red wine headaches usually occur within 30 minutes to three hours after drinking as little as a small glass of wine.
Professor Morris Levin added: “We postulate that when susceptible people consume wine with even modest amounts of quercetin, they develop headaches, particularly if they have a preexisting migraine or another primary headache condition.
“We think we are finally on the right track toward explaining this millennia-old mystery.
“The next step is to test it scientifically on people who develop these headaches, so stay tuned.”
The team plans to conduct human clinical trials to get further answers as there are still many unknowns about the causes of red wine headaches.
The full study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
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