Consuming more fish fats, less vegetable oils can reduce migraine headaches

According to the results of a recent research, those with regular migraines who ate more fatty fish had fewer headaches and less intense pain than those who ate more vegetable-based fats and oils. It was reported in The BMJ on July 3 by a team of scientists from NIH’s National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as well as the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In this study, which included 182 migraine sufferers, the researchers looked at the relationship between linoleic acid and chronic pain. Oils rich in linoleic acid include soybean, maize, and certain nuts and seeds. Linoleic acid is an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid in the American diet. Smaller research conducted by the same team looked at whether linoleic acid aggravated migraine-related pain processing tissues and pathways in the trigeminal nerve, the body’s biggest and most complex cranial nerve. People who ate more fish and shellfish (which contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids) had less discomfort due to inflammation in the pain pathway, according to the study’s findings.

Participants were randomly allocated to one of three healthy eating regimens for the duration of the 16-week intervention. Each participant got a meal package including fish, veggies, hummus, salads, and breakfast dishes, among other things. One group was fed meals rich in fatty fish or fatty fish oil and low in linoleic acid; the other group did not receive these meals. A second group was given meals that were richer in linoleic acid and included more fatty fish. For the third group, more linoleic acid and less fatty fish were served in order to replicate typical American diets. After the intervention, participants were asked to record information such as how many migraine days they had, how long they had them lasting, and how intense they were, as well as how these headaches affected their ability to function in their daily lives, including at work, school, and in their social circles. There was a significant effect on quality of life despite taking several medicines for headaches before the research started, with individuals reporting an average of over 16 headache days per month, over five hours each headache day of migraine discomfort.

There were decreases in total headache hours per day, severe headache hours per day, and overall headache days per month in the low-vegetable-oil group that were between 30% and 40% greater than the reductions in the control group. Participants in this study also showed reduced levels of lipids associated with pain in their blood samples. As opposed to other groups, these individuals saw only modest increases in migraine-related overall quality of life, while having less headache frequency and discomfort as a result. There are several reasons of persistent pain, missed work time, and decreased quality of life due to migraines. Globally, approximately 4 million individuals (at least 15 days per month) suffer with chronic migraine, and 90% of them are unable to work or function properly when they are experiencing an attack, which may last anywhere from four hours to three days.. Migraines are more common in women between the ages of 18 and 44, with an estimated 18% of all American women suffering from them. Currently available migraine medicines provide only partial relief and may have undesirable side effects such as drowsiness or dependency.

Scientific director of NIA Luigi Ferrucci said, “This research found intriguing evidence that diet changes have the potential to improve a very debilitating chronic pain condition such as migraine without the associated downsides of often prescribed medications.” Ferrucci is a physician and researcher. An intramural clinical investigator in the NIA/NIAAA programs and adjunct professor at UNC, Chris Ramsden headed the NIH team. He and his team are experts in the study of lipids, or fatty acid molecules present in many natural oils, and their function in aging, particularly chronic pain and neurological diseases. Ramsden and his colleagues specialize in these areas. Professor Doug Mann, M.D., of the Department of Neurology, and Dr. Kim Faurot, Ph.D., of the UNC Program on Integrative Medicine led the UNC team’s work. Beth MacIntosh, M.P.H., from UNC Healthcare’s Department of Nutrition and Food Services, created the meal plans.

Migraine sufferers may find relief from their symptoms by making dietary changes, according to Ramsden. In other words, the food we consume may affect pain pathways, as this study shows. Dietary interventions that increase omega-3 fats while decreasing linoleic acid sources show better promise for helping people with migraines reduce the number and impact of headache days while reducing the need for pain medications, according to the researchers. They noted that these findings serve as validation for this hypothesis. In the future, they want to investigate the impact of food on different types of chronic pain.

Journal Reference : Ramsden, CE, et al. Dietary alteration of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids for headache reduction in adults with migraine: randomized controlled trialBMJ, July 1, 2021; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.n1448

Categories: Clinical