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Will We Soon Know the Cause of 'Red Wine Headache'?

November 24, 2007 | 47,738 views
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A new device may be able to detect chemicals in red wine that lead to the dreaded “red wine headache,” according to University of California, Berkeley researchers.

The chemicals are called biogenic amines, and they’re found in a variety of fermented foods including wine, cheese, olives, nuts, cured meats and chocolate.

Red wine headache is thought to be caused by two amines called tyramine and histamine, but other potential causes also exist.

The new detector, which is the size of a small suitcase, can analyze a drop of wine and determine its amine levels in five minutes. The researchers are in the process of developing a pocket-sized version that you can take with you to a restaurant to test wine at your table.

Red wine and sake were found to have the highest amine levels, while beer had the lowest, researchers said.

Some experts recommend that those who do experience headaches after drinking red wine avoid amine-rich food and drinks. Aside from headaches, amines can also trigger high blood pressure, heart palpitations and elevated adrenaline levels.

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Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Regular newsletter readers know that I LOVE gadgets … but this is one gadget that I’ll be taking a pass on.

Folks, if wine gives you a headache, there’s no need for you to test it to find out just how bad for you it may be. Any pain in your body is a sign that something is out of balance and harmony. And if your head hurts from drinking wine, then you should listen to your body and stop drinking it.

Many of you, however, may decide to drink red wine because you believe it has some health benefits. Indeed, there is some evidence that points to wine’s positive impact on heart disease, lifespan and more.

Much of the benefit appears to be due to an antioxidant, resveratrol, found in grape skins and red wine. Resveratrol belongs to a family of compounds known as polyphenols, which are known to combat damaging free radicals in your body.

It appears that resveratrol lowers your "bad" LDL cholesterol while raising "good" HDL cholesterol and decreases the production of a protein that plays a major role in your development of heart disease.

Resveratrol was also found to extend the lifespan of yeast cells by up to 80 percent, and researchers are hoping to prove that the molecules will have similar effects on worms, fruit flies and even humans. 

Resveratrol is truly one of the most exciting antioxidants out there, but there are challenges when you receive it from drinking wine as the alcohol in the wine is not something that is intrinsically good for you.

Alcohol, in any form, is a neurotoxin that can poison your brain and leave you more vulnerable to various forms of cancer, which is why I personally do not advocate drinking any amount of wine.

People with high blood pressure, extra weight, diabetes, or high cholesterol should be even more cautious when it comes to alcohol -- including wine -- as it increases your insulin levels.

So, if you want the health benefits of red wine, without the alcohol, what should you do? There are a number of different companies that produce quality resveratrol supplements right now. It is important to focus on products that have the WHOLE grape skins and seeds, however.

And remember, if you are drinking wine thinking it is a safe form of alcohol, think again. If you are healthy (and not overweight), you can probably get by with drinking a small amount of wine without causing yourself major problems.

Ideally, though, I’d recommend passing on the wine and enjoying a glass of sparkling mineral water instead. My favorite is Pellegrino.

Having said that, it is important to understand some important facts on resveratrol supplementation. Because this antioxidant is soluble in alcohol you will get far more absorption if you consume it in an alcohol base as opposed to swallowing it from a pill. So while there are clearly distinct and negative consequences to consuming alcohol, these are partially compensated for by its ability to increase the absorption of resveratrol into your blood where it performs its magic.

Please recognize, though, that this is really only applicable for red wine, as the amount of resveratrol in white wine is minimal and not really clinically significant.

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