According to a new study, a diet richer in fatty fish helped frequent migraine sufferers lower their monthly number of headaches and severity of pain compared to those on a diet higher in vegetable-based fats and oils.
Eating More Fish Fats And Fewer Vegetable Oils Can Reduce Migraine Headaches
This study of 182 people with recurrent migraines built on the team’s earlier research on the relationship between linoleic acid and chronic pain. Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid produced from maize, soybean, and other related oils, as well as various nuts and seeds, that is widely found in the American diet.
Previous smaller research looked at whether linoleic acid irritated migraine-related pain processing tissues and pathways in the trigeminal nerve, the biggest and most complex of the body’s 12 cranial nerves. They discovered that a diet low in linoleic acid and high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish and shellfish, might alleviate pain via inflammation.
Subjects in a 16-week dietary intervention were randomly allocated to one of three healthy diet regimens. Meal packages with fish, veggies, hummus, salads, and breakfast items were distributed to all participants. One group was given meals that were high in fatty fish or fatty fish oils and low in linoleic acid. A second group was given meals that were heavy in fatty fish and low in linoleic acid. To replicate average US consumption, the third group was given meals high in linoleic acid and low in fatty fish.
During the intervention period, participants tracked the number of migraine days, length, and intensity they experienced, as well as how their headaches affected their ability to perform at work, school, and in their social life, and how frequently they needed to use pain medicines. At the start of the research, individuals reported an average of more than 16 headache days per month, over five hours of migraine discomfort each headache day, and baseline ratings indicating a significant impact on quality of life despite utilizing numerous headache medicines.
When compared to the control group, the diet low in vegetable oil and high in fatty fish reduced total headache hours per day, severe headache hours per day, and overall headache days per month by 30% to 40%. This group’s blood samples also included reduced amounts of pain-related lipids. Despite the reduction in headache frequency and discomfort, these same subjects reported only small improvements in migraine-related overall quality of life when compared to other research groups.
Migraine, a neurological illness, is one of the leading causes of chronic pain, missed work, and decreased quality of life. More than 4 million individuals worldwide suffer from chronic migraines on at least 15 days each month, and more than 90% of patients are unable to work or function properly during an attack, which can last anywhere from four hours to three days. Women between the ages of 18 and 44 are especially prone to migraines, which afflict an estimated 18% of all American women. Current migraine medicines typically provide only partial relief and can have significant side effects such as drowsiness and the potential of dependency or addiction.
This study discovered fascinating evidence that dietary modifications can improve a highly severe chronic pain disease like a migraine without the associated adverse effects of commonly prescribed drugs, according to NIA scientific director Luigi Ferrucci, M.D., Ph.D.
Chris Ramsden, a clinical investigator in the NIA and NIAAA intramural research programs and adjunct faculty member at UNC, headed the NIH team. Ramsden and his colleagues are experts in the study of lipids, which are fatty acid molecules present in many natural oils, and their involvement in aging, particularly chronic pain and neurological diseases.
According to Ramsden, dietary changes might provide some comfort for the millions of Americans who suffer from migraine headaches. It’s more proof that the things people eat can affect pain pathways.
The researchers stated that these findings validate that diet-based interventions that increase omega-3 fats while decreasing linoleic acid sources show more promise than fish-oil-based supplements in helping people with migraines reduce the number and impact of headache days while reducing the need for pain medications. They aim to extend their research into the impact of food on other chronic pain disorders.