Diet with more fish fats, less vegetable oils can reduce migraines

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we need to retrain our brains
Fish fats can help reduce migraines.

Consuming a diet with more fish fats, less vegetable oils can reduce migraine headaches, according to new research.

A diet higher in fatty fish helped frequent migraine sufferers reduce their monthly number of headaches and intensity of pain compared to participants on a diet higher in vegetable-based fats and oils, according to a new study published in The BMJ.

The study of 182 adults with frequent migraines expanded on the researchers’ previous work on the impact of linoleic acid and chronic pain. Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid commonly derived in the most Western diets from corn, soybean, and other similar oils, as well as some nuts and seeds. The team’s previous smaller studies explored if linoleic acid inflamed migraine-related pain processing tissues and pathways in the trigeminal nerve, the largest and most complex of the body’s 12 cranial nerves. They found that a diet lower in linoleic acid and higher in levels of omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish and shellfish, could soothe this pain pathway inflammation.

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In a 16-week dietary intervention, participants were randomly assigned to one of three healthy diet plans. Participants all received meal kits that included fish, vegetables, hummus, salads, and breakfast items. One group received meals that had high levels of fatty fish or oils from fatty fish and lowered linoleic acid. A second group received meals that had high levels of fatty fish and higher linoleic acid. The third group received meals with high linoleic acid and lower levels of fatty fish to mimic average American intakes.

During the intervention period, participants monitored their number of migraine days, duration, and intensity, along with how their headaches affected their abilities to function at work, school, and in their social lives, and how often they needed to take pain medications. When the study began, participants averaged more than 16 headache days per month, over five hours of migraine pain per headache day, and had baseline scores showing a severe impact on quality of life despite using multiple headache medications.

The diet lower in vegetable oil and higher in fatty fish produced between 30 per cent and 40 per cent reductions in total headache hours per day, severe headache hours per day, and overall headache days per month compared to the control group. Blood samples from this group of participants also had lower levels of pain-related lipids. Despite the reduction in headache frequency and pain, these same participants reported only minor improvements in migraine-related overall quality of life compared to other groups in the study.


Migraine, a neurological disease, ranks among the most common causes of chronic pain, lost work time, and lowered quality of life. More than four million people worldwide have chronic migraine and over 90 per cent of sufferers are unable to work or function normally during an attack, which can last anywhere from four hours to three days.

“This research found intriguing evidence that dietary changes have potential for improving a very debilitating chronic pain condition like migraine without the related downsides of often prescribed medications,” said Luigi Ferrucci, scientific director at the National Institute for Aging.

“Changes in diet could offer some relief for the millions of Americans who suffer from migraine pain. It’s further evidence that the foods we eat can influence pain pathways,” he added.



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Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.

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