Food rich in Omega-3 fatty acid could help reduce migraine; Study

By Arya M Nair, Official Reporter
  • Follow author on
Representational image

A Mediterranean-rich diet containing lots of fish fat could help in reducing the severe attack in people with migraines, a study reported.

Migraine is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. Despite the fact that migraine treatment options have improved over the last decade, many patients continue to suffer from extreme pain and disability even using multiple medications.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), migraine affects one out of every seven persons worldwide. It is estimated that approximately 40 million Americans, including 28 million women and girls, suffer from them. Migraines trouble 10 million in the United Kingdom, with women three times more likely than men to be affected.

Most scientists believe that a woman’s fluctuating hormones play a significant role, particularly when estrogen levels drop around the time of her monthly period.

Dr. Christopher Ramsden and researchers from the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, US, conducted the study, which was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). They wanted to see how fatty acids present in certain foods affected the intensity of migraines.

Both Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish and certain nuts and seeds, and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in refined vegetable oils, are catalysts to pain-regulating molecules known as oxylipins, with those derived from the former having pain-reducing effects and those derived from the latter having pain-amplifying effects.

The study had 182 migraine patients randomly assigned to one of three diets for 16 weeks: one that raised Omega-3 while keeping Omega-6 fatty acids the same, another that raised Omega-3 while lowering Omega-6, and a control diet that comprised usual levels of both fatty acids.

The diets were intended to be as similar as possible, with the key differences being the type of oil or butter used, as well as the main protein source (oily fish vs. low-fat fish or poultry) given to the participants.

The study showed that both diets resulted in biochemical changes that were indicative of decreased severity. The frequency of migraines was reduced by 1.3 headache hours a day and two headache days a month for those in the high-Omega-3 group and by 1.7 headache hours a day and four headache days a month for those eating a high-Omega-3, low-Omega-6 diet. 

According to the study, the diets did result in significant improvements in headache frequency and severity when compared to the control diet.

Related: Consuming omega-3 fatty acid can prevent the risk of asthma: Study