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Drinking red wine can sometimes cause redness of the face, nausea and headaches.

Research has shown that the "red wine headache" is caused by quercetin, an antioxidant in wine.

Professor Andrew Waterhouse and his team at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) reported in the scientific journal 'Scientific Reports' on the 21st that quercetin, a flavanol component in red wine, appears to interfere with alcohol metabolism and cause headaches.

A 'red wine headache' is a condition that occurs within 30 minutes to 3 hours after drinking a small amount of wine, and can occur in people who don't get headaches when drinking other alcoholic beverages, but the cause is not yet clear.

When you drink alcoholic beverages, your body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, a toxic substance, causing hot flashes, headaches, nausea, and more.

When acetaldehyde is converted into acetate by enzymes in the body, these symptoms disappear.

However, when acetaldehyde accumulates without breaking down, it causes hangovers such as headaches and vomiting.

In particular, about 40% of East Asians are known to be free of acetaldehyde degradase or very little.

When the antioxidant quercetin in red wine enters the bloodstream, it changes into a form called quercetin glucuronide, which disrupts the normal metabolism of alcohol and causes acetaldehyde to build up.

Professor Waterhouse pointed out that quercetin is known to be a healthy substance, but it can cause problems when metabolized with alcohol.

Quercetin is a naturally occurring flavanol found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, including grapes, and is known to be a healthy antioxidant and is also available in supplement form, the researchers explained.

Quercetin is a substance produced by grapes in response to sunlight, and the amount varies by 4~5 times depending on the degree of sunlight exposure of the bunches.

In addition, the quercetin content may vary depending on the winemaking process, such as wine fermentation, aging, and stagnation.

Co-author Maurice Levine, a professor of neurology, said: "The 'red wine headache' is one of those millennia-old mysteries, and I think we have the right answer in this study. The next step is to do scientific testing on people who develop these headaches."

The research team plans to use a small clinical trial using red wine high in quercetin and red wine with very little to no quercetin to clarify the causal relationship between quercetin and "red wine headaches."

"There's a lot that we don't know, such as why some people are more susceptible to 'red wine headaches' than others, and why alcohol-metabolizing enzymes are more easily suppressed by quercetin," Waterhouse said.

(Photo = Yonhap News)