More oily fish and less vegetable oils can reduce migraines, study results

A new NIH study suggests that people who eat more fatty fish and less vegetable oils can reduce migraines.

A new study from the National Institutes of Health suggests that people who consume more fatty fish and less vegetable oils might reduce their monthly migraine headaches and make the pain less intense.

The study, published in July in the BMJ, was produced by a team of researchers from the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The team had previously investigated the link between linoleic acid and chronic pain. Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid commonly obtained from corn, soybean, and other similar oils, as well as some nuts and seeds. They found that consuming less linoleic acid and more omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish and shellfish, reduced the intensity of migraine pain.

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The team then examined 182 adults with frequent migraines. The adults participated in a 16-week diet program and were assigned one of three diet plans. They all received meals with fish, vegetables, hummus, salads and breakfast items. However, one group received meals high in oily fish or oily fish oils and low in linoleic acid. The second group received meals high in fatty fish and higher in linoleic acid. The third group received meals high in linoleic acid and less fatty fish.

During the 16 weeks, participants monitored the number of days they had migraines and measured their intensity. They also noted how their headaches affected their ability to perform everyday activities and how often medications were needed.

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At the start of the study, participants had an average of more than 16 days of headache per month with over five hours of migraine pain per headache.

The results showed that the group on the less vegetable oil and more fatty fish diet produced between 30 and 40% fewer headache hours per day, severe headache hours per day, and total headache days per month.

“This research has found fascinating evidence that dietary changes have the potential to improve a very debilitating chronic pain condition like migraines without the associated drawbacks of often-prescribed medications,” said Dr. Luigi Ferrucci from NIA.

The study indicated that migraines, a neurological disorder, are one of the most common causes of chronic pain, lost working hours and a reduced quality of life. The study author said that more than 4 million people worldwide have chronic migraines and over 90% of those affected are unable to work or function normally during a seizure that can last anywhere from four hours to three days.

Women between the ages of 18 and 44 are particularly susceptible to migraines, and it affects an estimated 18% of all American women, according to the study.

This story was told from Los Angeles.