A new study found that a diet high in fish fats and fewer vegetable oils can reduce migraine headaches.
The study by researchers from the US National Institute on Aging, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was published in the journal The BMJ.
Oily fish is the best food source of omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in human metabolism.
They are the building blocks of our cell membranes, anti-inflammatory and have a positive effect on lipid metabolism, emphasizes the Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE).
They have also been found to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and have a positive effect on cholesterol levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a key family of polyunsaturated fats.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are mainly found in oily fish, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in some plants, are particularly important for the human body.
However, most people’s diets contain more omega-6 fatty acids, mainly linoleic acid.
Many processed foods have a high proportion of this, says the BZfE, since vegetable and seed oils fortified with linoleic acid are ubiquitous in modern societies.
Natural sources of DHA and EPA include fatty saltwater fish like mackerel, herring, tuna, and salmon.
For a vegan diet, there are DHA-rich oils from various microalgae.
For example, ALA can be found in canola, walnut, and linseed oils, nuts, leafy green vegetables, and chia seeds.
In the nearly four-year study, 182 migraineurs followed one of three diets.
The control diet was designed to help maintain the average American intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
The second diet contained increased levels of EPA and DHA, as did the third, which also contained decreased levels of linoleic acid.
Participants who followed the second and third diets reported shorter and less severe headaches compared to those in the control group.
Some were even able to reduce their medication intake.
Their headache frequency was also statistically significantly reduced.
The second diet, high in omega-3 fatty acids, was linked to a reduction of two headache days per month, with the third diet, high in omega-3 and low in omega-6, having twice as many.
Results from the study suggest that diet changes may help relieve migraines and other chronic pain, according to the BZfE.
In particular, the correct ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids is important, as they are enzymatically converted into signal molecules (oxylipins) that increase pain (e.g. linoleic acid) or decrease it (e.g. DHA and EPA). – dpa