Diets High in Fatty Fish May Improve Migraines
Diets higher in fatty fish and lower in vegetable oil may reduce the frequency and pain severity of migraine headaches, according to the results of a recent study.
To evaluate the impact of various diets on migraine pathogenesis, the researchers conducted a randomized, modified double-blind trial. Included were 182 adults from an academic medical center within the United States, who reported 5 to 20 migraine days per month.
Participants were randomized to one of three diets for 16 weeks: the H3 diet (n = 61), in which eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were increased to 1.5 g/day and linoleic acid was maintained at around 7% of energy; the H3-L6 diet (n = 61), in which EPA and DHA were increased to 1.5 g/day but the linoleic acid was decreased to ≤1.8% of energy; and the control diet (n = 61) in which EPA and DHA were maintained at <150 mg/day and linoleic acid was maintained at around 7% of energy.
When compared to the control group, the diet groups had reductions between 30% and 40% in the total headache hours per day, severe headache hours per day, overall headache days per month, and lower levels of pain-related lipids. The H3-L6 diet group had higher reductions in headache days per month than the H3 diet group.
However, only minor improvements in migraine-related overall quality of life were reported in both of the diet groups.
“While the diets did not significantly improve quality of life, they produced large, robust reductions in frequency and severity of headaches relative to the control diet. The H3-L6 diet was more effective than the H3 diet for some outcomes,” the researchers concluded. “This study provides a biologically plausible demonstration that pain can be treated through targeted dietary alterations in humans. Collective findings suggest causal mechanisms linking n-3 and n-6 fatty acids to nociception, and open the door to new approaches for managing chronic pain in humans.”
Ramsden CE, Zamora D, Faurot KR, et al. Dietary alteration of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids for headache reduction in adults with migraine: randomized controlled trial. BMJ. 2021; 374: n1448. doi: 10.1136/bmj.n1448