Quercetin May Cause Red Wine Headaches | Worsening Wildfires Are Undoing Air Quality Progress

Episode 662,   Dec 08, 2023, 09:04 PM

A new theory pins the throbbing pain of a red wine headache on quercetin, an antioxidant in grape skins. Plus, wildfires in the Western US have not only lowered air quality, but led to increased deaths between 2000 and 2020.

What Causes Red Wine Headaches? It May Be Quercetin

It’s a common experience: After a glass or two of red wine, relaxation can turn into a pounding headache. This isn’t the same thing as a hangover, as the dreaded red wine headache kicks in between 30 minutes and three hours after imbibing.

For years, there have been different theories about what causes this phenomenon. But neither sulfites or tannins have been proven to be the culprit. A new theory published in the journal Scientific Reports posits that quercetin, an antioxidant in grape skins, could create a toxic byproduct that leads to headaches.

Dr. Morris Levin is one of the authors on this paper. He’s the director of the Headache Center at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, and has spent his career treating patients for migraines and other headache experiences. But Levin says there’s not nearly enough funding for headache research as a whole, which leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the origins and meanings of this common ailment.

Levin joins guest host Flora Lichtman to discuss red wine headaches, as well as the remaining mysteries of headaches.

Worsening Wildfires Are Undoing Air Quality Progress In The US

The Western US has seen both more frequent and more intense wildfires over the past couple decades, leading to lower air quality and increased deaths in the region between 2000 and 2020, according to a new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal. While the EPA has made progress in improving air quality in the country, those gains are being undone by smoke from wildfires.

The study looked at particulate matter called PM2.5 and a toxic component of it, black carbon. The researchers found that after years of trending downward nationally, the concentration of PM2.5–and the proportion of black carbon within it–began to increase in the West in 2010. This shift was linked to an increase of 670 premature deaths per year in the region.

Joining Ira to talk about this and other science news of the week is Rachel Feltman, host of the podcast The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week. They also discuss a surprise found in the oldest known mosquito fossil, why a national plastic bag recycling program was shut down, and why dwarf planet Eris’ surface is a little squishy.


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