Inhibition of ALDH2 by quercetin glucuronide suggests a new hypothesis to explain red wine headaches

Apramita Devi, Morris Levin, Andrew L. Waterhouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The consumption of red wine induces headaches in some subjects who can drink other alcoholic beverages without suffering. The cause for this effect has been attributed to a number of components, often the high level of phenolics in red wine, but a mechanism has been elusive. Some alcohol consumers exhibit flushing and experience headaches, and this is attributed to a dysfunctional ALDH2 variant, the enzyme that metabolizes acetaldehyde, allowing it to accumulate. Red wine contains much higher levels of quercetin and its glycosides than white wine or other alcoholic beverages. We show that quercetin-3-glucuronide, a typical circulating quercetin metabolite, inhibits ALDH2 with an IC50 of 9.6 µM. Consumption of red wine has been reported to result in comparable levels in circulation. Thus, we propose that quercetin-3-glucoronide, derived from the various forms of quercetin in red wines inhibits ALDH2, resulting in elevated acetaldehyde levels, and the subsequent appearance of headaches in susceptible subjects. Human-subject testing is needed to test this hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19503
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Dec

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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