Peer Reviewed


BMI Affects Migraine Comorbidities, Chronification

Individuals with a high body mass index (BMI) may experience worse migraine symptoms and have an increased risk for comorbidities and migraine chronification, according to research presented during the American Academy of Neurology’s 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting.

To quantify BMI in migraine patients, the researchers analyzed 3611 patients who were referred to the tertiary headache clinic at the University of Washington. All participants of the study were diagnosed with migraine and had BMI data available.

The participants completed intake questionnaires, including questions about headache characteristics, sleep habits, depression, anxiety, and stress level. BMI and International Classification of Headache Disorders, third edition (ICHD-3), headache diagnosis were then included by their provider.

The results indicated that BMI was higher in patients with chronic migraine. Patients with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 had more headache days per month, greater headache severity, a higher perception of stress scores, and higher Patient Health Questionnaire, fourth edition (PHQ4), scores compared with individuals with a normal BMI.

In addition, patients with sleep issues had higher BMIs than those without sleep problems.

“Our data support our expectation that BMI [of] 30 [or higher] compared to normal BMI correlates with increased migraine chronification, increased headache days per month, and increased headache severity. BMI [of] 30 [or higher] compared to normal BMI also significantly correlates with measures of migraine comorbidities, such as anxiety, depression, and difficulty with sleep,” the authors concluded. “Normalizing BMI may be protective against migraine chronification and improve all migraine comorbidities.”

—Leigh Precopio


O’Fallon G, Dyess M, Haley H, et al. Body mass index and the brain in pain: influence of BMI level on migraine patients seen at a large tertiary headache center. Paper presented at: American Academy of Neurology’s 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting; April 17-22, 2021; Virtual.