Weight And Migraine Risk

Being too thin or too fat could increase the risk of migraines, according to a new scientific review. Neurologist B. Lee Peterlin, director of headache research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, observed a potential link between migraines and obesity in an earlier study. To follow up, she led a review of 12 previously published studies containing data on nearly 300,000 patients. This meta-analysis suggested that obese individuals are 27 percent more likely to have migraines than people of normal weight and that underweight people have a 13 percent higher risk of migraines. Because these findings are observational, they don’t prove that being overweight or underweight is a cause of migraines. While Dr. Peterlin says it isn’t clear how body composition could modify the risk of these headaches, she notes that fatty tissue secretes a wide range of molecules that could be involved. In addition, she suggests that the relationship between migraine and body composition could be influenced by changes in physical activity, medication or conditions such as depression. Also at issue: whether losing – or gaining – weight could reduce the frequency of migraines, although some anecdotal evidence suggests that weight loss can help.

My take? While these findings don’t prove that body size contributes to migraine, they do appear to identify it as a risk factor over which affected individuals have some control. It has been reported that the headaches are reduced by more than 50 percent among obese individuals who undergo bariatric surgery, although we need more evidence to confirm those findings. In the meantime, if you have migraines and are overweight, making the effort to shed some excess pounds might prove beneficial in reducing the number and severity of your headaches. It also could improve your overall health.

B. Lee Peterlin. “Body composition status and the risk of migraine.” Neurology, April 12 2017; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003919


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