Sulfites Probably Aren't Causing Your Wine Headache

Don't let the label warning mislead you
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Mar 21, 2015 6:44 AM CDT
Sulfites may be getting a worse rap than they deserve.   (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

(Newser) – Wine bottles are often marked with the phrase "contains sulfites," and drinking wine can cause headaches. But for most people, those two facts are unlikely to be related, writes Lettie Teague in the Wall Street Journal. That sulfite warning was the result of a legislative effort by the former senator Strom Thurmond, who was opposed to alcohol. And sulfites actually appear in much higher doses in many other foods, including canned tuna and dried fruit: A couple of ounces of dried apricots has about 112mg of sulfites, while a glass of wine has only about 10. In fact, only about 1% of Americans are sensitive to sulfites. However, there's another substance in wine you may have heard of that could be causing your headache: alcohol.

"Sometimes patients tell me they don’t have a reaction to wine if they stop at one glass,” says one doctor quoted in the piece. Her response: "Then, why don’t you stop at one glass?” In addition to alcohol, however, other substances could be causing a problem. A piece in America's Test Kitchen cited by Lifehacker points to histamines, which dilate the blood vessels in your brain, and tyramines, which constrict those vessels. If foods like cheese, horseradish, or maraschino cherries give you a headache, these substances might be the culprit in wine, too. There is, however, good news on the wine-headache front, at least when it comes to hangovers: Researchers are investigating a winemaking method that would cut down on the problem.

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