American scientists have found that a diet with a lot of fatty fish and limited vegetable oils helps to relieve headaches in people suffering from regular migraines. The results of the study are published in the journal The BMJ.
Migraine is a neurological disease, one of the most common causes of chronic headache. According to the US National Institutes of Health, more than four million people worldwide suffer from chronic migraines — they have attacks at least 15 times a month. During the attack, which lasts from four hours to three days, people cannot work normally. Women aged 18 to 44 years are especially susceptible to migraines.
Modern medications offer only partial relief and often have negative side effects, including sedation, addiction and addiction. Therefore, scientists are constantly looking for alternative ways to combat migraines.
Researchers from the National Institute of Aging (NIA) of the United States, together with colleagues from the National Institutes of Health and the University of North Carolina, conducted a study that involved 182 adults, 88 percent of whom are women who suffer from migraine pain from 5 to 20 days a month.
The participants were divided into three groups that received a different diet for 16 weeks: the first group — with a high content of fatty fish and a low content of vegetable fats, primarily linoleic acid; the second — with a high content of fatty fish and linoleic acid; the third, control — with a high content of linoleic acid and a low content of fatty fish, approximately corresponding to the diet of the average American.
Linoleic acid, which is found in corn, soy and other vegetable oils, as well as nuts and seeds, belongs to the class of omega-6-unsaturated fatty acids — precursors of oxylipins, molecules involved in the regulation of pain and inflammation. Previous studies have shown that oxylipins derived from omega-3 fatty acids contained in fatty fish have an analgesic effect, while oxylipins derived from omega-6 fatty acids increase pain.
The authors decided to test how true this is for migraines. Previously, they have already proved that linoleic acid causes inflammation of the pain-processing tissues associated with migraines and the pathways in the trigeminal nerve, the largest and most complex of the 12 cranial nerves of the body. Now, researchers have confirmed that a diet low in linoleic acid and higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation of this pain pathway.
The results showed that a diet with a lower content of vegetable oil and a large amount of fatty fish led to a reduction of 30-40 percent in the total number of hours of headache per day, hours of severe headache per day and the total number of days of headache per month compared to the control group. The blood samples of the participants in the first group also had lower levels of lipids associated with pain.
“This study has found evidence that changes in diet can bring some relief to millions suffering from migraines,” the head of the study and the first author of the article, Dr. Chris Ramsden, is quoted in a press release by the NIA. — This is another evidence that the food we eat can affect the pain pathways.”
The authors plan to continue their work and study the effect of nutrition on other chronic pain conditions.