Does fat cause migraines?

There has been a lot of news in the press lately about the link between obesity and migraines. Does obesity cause more migraines? Is it a trigger?

It's a headline that has been doing the rounds in major publications such as CBS, Fox, Huffington Post, LA Times, and DailyMail (UK), as well as in publications from the American Academy of Neurology.

Here are the facts

  • Research conducted at John Hopkins University School of Medicine found an association between obesity and episodic migraine.
  • Findings showed obese people had an 81% higher risk of experiencing episodic migraine than those of normal weight.
  • The study included 3,862 people, 1,044 of whom were obese. The average age was 47. 188 had episodic migraines.
  • The link was found to be highest in women under 50.
  • The cause for the association is still unknown.

What does this mean?

'Episodic' migraines refer to the frequency of migraine attacks. People who have episodic migraines have 0-14 headache days a month. If a person has 15 headache days or more, this is classified as 'chronic' migraines.

It is important to note that these findings were not reported for chronic migraine sufferers. The research only suggests there may be a link between the two. That basically means people who tend to get more migraines also tend to be overweight. That's it.

My Opinion

I'm not surprised by a link between obesity and migraines. Obesity is generally related to poor diet and lack of exercise or otherwise, poor health. To manage migraines, you need to manage your personal health. Migraines are a chronic disease and like any disease, your fundamentals need to be in order to give yourself the best chance of progress. A healthy diet and regular exercise is an essential part of that regime.

What is the new discovery that can help the migraine sufferer?

This depends on how well you are managing your condition. If you didn't know already, then you should you do now - having a healthy diet and exercise regime is important.

If you have migraines, it's extra important.

And according to this study, it will reduce the chances of you experiencing episodic migraines.

If you could benefit from losing a few pounds or exercising a little more, why not do it? Now you have the scientific proof needed to make the effort and do it.

Of course its more complicated than this. In some cases, extra weight or appetite may be side effects of the medicine you're taking. I personally put on 15 pounds when a previous doctor didn't tell me about an increase in appetite being a side effect of my medication. I then had to work hard to lose the weight over the following months.

Regardless, in many cases an improvement to diet and/or exercise can benefit the migraine condition.

These latest findings might be the nudge we need to start moving a little more.

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