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Scientists discover why red wine causes ‘worst’ hangovers and headaches

Rhiannon Ingle

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| Last updated 

Scientists discover why red wine causes ‘worst’ hangovers and headaches

Featured Image Credit: Olga Rolenko/Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Now that the white wine spritzers and rosé sangrias of summer have gone into hibernation - it's fair to say we are now fully into red and mulled wine season as we soon approach Christmas.

Whether you're a fruity and floral Pinot noir kinda gal or full-bodied and rich Malbec lover - one thing we can all agree on is that a red wine hangover is one of the absolute worsts.

But, luckily for you, scientists have finally discovered exactly why red wine causes the 'worst' hangovers and headaches that leave you with your noggin in a toilet swearing off the tipple forever.

Scientists at the University of California have answered the age-old question. Credit: Space_Cat / Getty Images
Scientists at the University of California have answered the age-old question. Credit: Space_Cat / Getty Images
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The study, which is published in the Scientific Reports journal, sees researchers from the University of California, Davis, crack the age-old mystery.

The brainiacs effectively discovered that there is a nutrient, or flavanol, found in red wine that actually stops the body from processing alcohol properly.

Yep - it's not just you.

The flavanol is known as quercetin which, when metabolised with alcohol, can have quite the impact on our bodies.

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"The consumption of red wine induces headaches in some subjects who can drink other alcoholic beverages without suffering," reads the study.

"When it gets in your bloodstream, your body converts it to a different form called quercetin glucuronide," explains wine chemist and corresponding author, Andrew Waterhouse, from the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology.

"In that form, it blocks the metabolism of alcohol."

Flavanols stop the body from processing alcohol properly. Credit: wilpunt / Getty Images
Flavanols stop the body from processing alcohol properly. Credit: wilpunt / Getty Images
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Lead author Dr Apramita Devi notes that this process results in the build up of a toxin called acetaldehyde, which is what leads to the dreaded headache.

Devi goes on: '"Acetaldehyde is a well-known toxin, irritant and inflammatory substance.

"Researchers know that high levels of acetaldehyde can cause facial flushing, headache and nausea."

And the kicker?

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Different red wines have different levels of the flavanol quercetin which all depends on how the wine is produced.

So, as quercetin is produced by the grapes in response to sunlight, older wines seem to have much higher quercetin levels.

However, wines like Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wines have, overall, the most flavanols, while Merlots and red Zinfandels have fewer of the sort.

The research is pretty monumental as it finally provides some explanation to the phenomenon I'm sure more than a few of us have had the misfortune of experiencing.

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Co-author Morris Levin, professor of neurology and director of the Headache Center at the University of California, San Francisco, revealed: "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."

Now we just need to work on a fool-proof red wine hangover cure and we're sorted!

Topics: Food and Drink, Science, Life, Health, News

Rhiannon Ingle
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