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All Red Wines may Not cause Headaches

Posted: Thursday, 21 June 2012 17:25

All Red Wines may Not cause Headaches

June 21 : Many wine drinkers complaining of headaches with red wines admit to being allergic to sulphur but a new preliminary study suggests that some types of red wine may be more likely to trigger a headache than others, the tannins bearing a direct relationship.

"My suggestion is the more the tannins the wine has, more migraine attacks it triggers,” says researcher Dr. Abouch V. Krymchantowski, of the Rio Headache Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. No one is quite sure why red wine may trigger headaches, but some studies have shown that tannins may boost production of the brain chemical, serotonin; the changes in their levels may trigger migraines in some  individuals.

In this study presented at the 54th Annual Meeting of the American Headache Society in Los Angeles and reported by WebMD, he studied 40 patients suffering from  migraines that were allegedly triggered by drinking red wine. He gave them half-bottles of four different kinds of wine: Malbec, Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Merlot- all from South America. The Malbec and the Tannat are high in tannins than the others. He asked the subjects to wait at least four days after drinking one of the half-bottles before they tried another.

Out of 33 that completed the study, nearly 90% had at least one migraine attack within 12 hours of drinking one of the half-bottles of red wine. About half of the people in the study had at least two migraine attacks after drinking the various reds. About a third of patients got a migraine after every half-bottle. Four people didn't get a migraine after drinking any of the wines. Among the 18 patients who had at least two migraine attacks after drinking the wines, he feels that the wines with the highest tannin content- Tannat and Malbec, were the most likely apparent triggers of the attacks,

The study however is not a clear cut answer to how much of which wines should one prefer. Krymchantowski says that Cabernet sauvignon wines from France, for example, have much higher tannin levels than any of the wines he tested from South America, making it tough for consumers to compare wines grape-to-grape if they come from different countries Headache experts agree that problem exists but very little attention has been given from science.

However, there are other substances in wine that may cause headaches-such as sulfites and one wonders if the researchers looked at sulfite levels in the wines.

This is a very preliminary study, not yet vetted by the peers and needs more follow ups. We have often recommended our readers to try organic/biodynamic wines and  better quality wines-this has generally resulted in lesser headaches. To this, once could add an advisory –to try  lower tannic reds like Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Valpolicella and Merlot, However, there is yet another factor-the extraction of tannins may be different by different winemakers from the same grape and in the same country-editor


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