Although studies have shown that alcohol consumption can have some surprising benefits – such as red wine for COVID-19 infections – excessive alcohol consumption naturally has serious health consequences in the first place. It can, for example, promote laryngeal cancer. Furthermore, there are even certain foods that are said to be almost as addictive as alcohol and cigarettes!
With the festive season just around the corner, socializing is likely to be accompanied by a lot of alcohol consumption and, with it, the dreaded hangover after red wine. According to the BBC, a few theories exist about why you may get a headache after drinking red wine.
More expensive wines can mean worse headaches
BBC reports on the findings of a research team from the University of California in the US. They have found that an antioxidant compound called quercetin could be responsible for giving you a headache after drinking red wine, even if you feel fine after drinking other types of alcohol.
The quercetin in grapes comes from exposure to sunlight. Prof. Andrew Waterhouse tells BBC News that expensive wines may be more likely to promote headaches than cheaper red wines.
The cheaper grape varieties are grown on vines with very large canopies and lots of leaves, so they don’t get as much sun, whereas high-quality grapes come from smaller plants with fewer leaves. The amount of sunlight is carefully controlled to improve the quality of the wine.
However, others, such as Prof. Roger Corder from Queen Mary University of London, believe that anecdotal evidence suggests cheaper wines are more likely to cause headaches than expensive ones.
Other possible causes of red wine headaches
There is still no consensus as to why red wine sometimes causes headaches. According to the BBC, the following reasons, among others, are thought to play a role:
Sulphites, used as preservatives to extend the shelf life of wine, are suspected to cause red wine headaches. However, there is not enough evidence to support this theory.
Some people, such as those of East Asian descent, also have a genetic predisposition to wine headaches. Their genes block the proper functioning of the alcohol-degrading enzyme ALDH2, which leads to headaches.
Research is currently underway to find out more about alcohol and how it is processed in our bodies. As the BBC reports, studies have shown that alcohol consumption can lead to serious health problems in the short and long term, including liver damage, strokes and heart disease.
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