Participants in an American study who ate a diet low in vegetable oil containing a type of omega-6, and high in fatty fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, experienced a reduction in their migraine at the monthly level.

Eating, diet, with, more, fish, fats, and, less, vegetable, oils, can, reduce, migraines

What if one of the solutions to reduce the frequency of migraines in people who are prone to them was in the plate? According to a scientific study published in the British Medical Journal, a diet richer in fatty fish (sardines, herring, mackerel...) helped frequent migraine sufferers reduce their monthly number of headaches and the intensity of pain compared to participants following a diet richer in fats and vegetable oils. These findings come from a team of researchers at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Their study reveals that this beneficial effect can be explained by the content of omega-3 fatty acids in these fish and that, conversely, linoleic acid, a fatty acid of the omega-6 family present in certain vegetable oils has an impact on pain. Previous work by the same scientific team investigated whether linoleic acid inflamed migraine pain tissues and pathways in the trigeminal nerve, the largest and most complex cranial nerve in the body. The researchers then discovered that a diet low in linoleic acid and higher in omega-3 fatty acids could calm this inflammation of the pain pathways.

Increase omega-3 intake, reduce omega-6 intake

Their new study involved recruiting 182 adults with frequent migraines (from five and 20 days per month) who, for 16 weeks, were randomly assigned to three diets. All participants received meals that included fish, vegetables, hummus, salads and breakfast. But one group received meals containing high levels of fatty fish or fatty fish oils (omega-3) and reduced linoleic acid (omega-6), a second group received similar levels of both fatty acids, and the third group received high linoleic acid and lower levels of fatty fish.

During the intervention period, participants monitored their number of migraine days, their duration and intensity, as well as how they affected their ability to function at work, school and in their social lives, and how often they needed to take pain medication. At the start of the study, participants suffered an average of more than 16 migraine days per month, lasting up to five hours per day. The impact on quality of life was very significant, despite the use of several painkillers. And for good reason: migraine ranks among the most common causes of chronic pain, lost work time and reduced quality of life.

Migraine duration is significantly reduced

Especially since, as the researchers explain, "migraine medications generally offer only partial relief and can have negative side effects, including sedation and the possibility of dependence or addiction. "But their findings showed that at the end of the intervention period, two groups of participants, the group with a similar omega-3 and omega-6 diet and especially the group with a high omega-3, low omega-6 diet, reported improvement in this area: a reduction of about 30 to 40 percent compared to the control group in the number of hours of migraine per day and number of days with migraine per month.

"This research found intriguing evidence that dietary changes have the potential to improve a very debilitating chronic pain like migraine without the associated drawbacks of often-prescribed medications. ", notes the scientific team. While more work is needed to understand the exact mechanism, the main hypothesis is that oily fish are rich in omega-3s, which are themselves rich in compounds that play a role against chronic pain. "Changes in diet could provide relief for people who suffer from migraines. Further evidence that food can influence pain pathways. ", she adds.

The researchers conclude that "these results confirm that diet-based interventions increasing omega-3 while reducing linoleic acid sources hold more promise for helping migraine sufferers reduce the number and impact of headache days than fish oil supplements, while reducing the need for pain medications. "They hope to exploit their finding by studying the effects of diet on other chronic pain conditions. It should be noted that in addition to fatty fish, the foods richest in omega-3 fatty acids are derived from plants: walnuts, rapeseed oil, soybean oil, flaxseed oil...