Eating More Oily Fish Found to Reduce Migraines

A new study has found that eating a diet which contains a lot of oily fish can help to reduce the number of migraines which sufferers experience – in particular female migraine sufferers.

The study was published in the British Medical Journal and conducted by the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, US, by Dr Christopher Ramsden and his team. They wished to test whether increasing the percentage of Omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and supplements) which are associated with pain-reduction, and Omega-6 fatty acids (commonly found in refined vegetable oils) which may worsen pain and provoke migraines, would impact on the severity or frequency of migraines.

One of three different diets were assigned for a period of 16 weeks to each of the 182 patients who took part – each suffering from between 5 and 20 days of migraine a month. One diet kept Omega-6 fatty acids the same but increased Omega-3 acids, one increased Omega-3 acids but lowered Omega-6 acids, and the control diet kept the levels of both fatty acids to a typical level.

The results showed that both of the diets which raised Omega-3 acid levels increased the levels of a pain-reducing substance in the body called oxylipin. These diets also reduced the frequency of the patient’s migraines.

For the high Omega-3 but normal Omega-6 diet there was an average reduction of 1.3 hours of pain duration on headache days and two fewer migraine days a month. For the high Omega-3 but lower Omega-6 group there was a 1.7 hour reduction in pain duration on headache days and four fewer migraine days a month.

This study did have a few limitations however. The majority of the participants were women and so the increase of Omega-3 fatty acids may not be so beneficial to children or men. It’s also unknown whether the reduction in pain duration was entirely down to an increase in the Omega-3 fatty acids, or whether other micronutrients played a role since eating more oily fish such as salmon increases the amount of vitamin D and selenium you are eating too.

Whether or not it’s entirely due to an increase in Omega-3 fatty acids, or a combination of nutrients, this study has shown that eating a diet which contains more oily fish can be of help to migraine sufferers.   

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