Dietary alteration of certain fatty acids can reduce severit
Migraine is one of the largest causes of disability in the world. Existing treatments are often not enough to offer full relief for patients. A new study published in The BMJ demonstrates an additional option patients can use in their effort to experience fewer migraines and headaches - a change in diet.

The classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids examined in this study are omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-3). Both have important functions within our body, but need to be in balance, as n-3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease inflammation and some derivatives of n-6 have been shown to promote pain. However, due to the amount of processed food consumed today, most people in the U.S. are eating substantially more n-6 and fewer n-3 fatty acids.

To see whether the amount of these fatty acids in a person's diet could impact pain from headaches, 182 patients currently diagnosed with and seeking treatment for migraines were enrolled in this randomized, controlled trial. In addition to their current treatments, patients adhered to one of three diets for 16 weeks: a control diet that maintained the average amount of n-6 and n-3 fatty acids that a person living in the U.S. consumes, a diet that increased n-3 and maintained n-6 fatty acids, and a diet that increased n-3 and decreased n-6 fatty acids. Participants were provided with 2/3 of their daily food requirements, and were also given an electronic diary to record how many hours each day they had headache pain.

"The results are quite promising," researcher said. "Patients who followed either diet experienced less pain than the control group. Those who followed the diet high in n-3 and low in n-6 fatty acids experienced the biggest improvement."

Participants reported fewer days a month with headaches, and some were able to decrease the amount of medication they needed for their pain. However, participants did not report a change in quality of life.

"I think this modification in diet could be impactful," researcher said. "The effect we saw for the reduction of headaches is similar to what we see with some medications. The caveat is that even though participants did report fewer headaches, some people did not change their perception of how headaches affected them."

"This study specifically tested n-3 fatty acids from fish and not from dietary supplements," said study co-author. "These findings do not apply to supplement use."

Source: https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1448
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