A new meta-analysis has found a link between migraine risk and body mass index. Physicians, however, recommend some lifestyle changes in an attempt to prevent or alleviate migraines. For instance, eating meals at regular times, having good sleep hygiene, exercising, and using relaxation and stress management techniques, have all been suggested to reduce the symptoms of migraines.
Additionally, in the case of people with obesity who also have migraines, medical professionals recommend that the patients enrol in a weight loss program to reduce their symptoms.
New research examines the connection between migraine risk and being overweight, obese, or underweight. The study consists of a new meta-analysis of existing research, and it was published in the journal Neurology.
The study found that people with obesity had a 27 percent higher risk of migraine than people with a normal weight, and people who were underweight had a 13 percent higher risk of migraine compared with their normal-weight counterparts.
The results remained unchanged after adjusting for possible confounding factors such as age and sex.
However, Dr B Lee Peterlin of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a member of the American Academy of Neurology, and a co-author of the study – notes that age and sex were key variables in the correlation between migraine risk and BMI.
“This makes sense, as the risk entailed by obesity and the risk of migraine is different in women and men and in younger and older people,” Dr Peterlin says. “Both obesity disease risk and the occurrence of migraine is more common in women and in younger people.”
As the study was observational, the authors cannot draw any conclusions as to the causal relationship between BMI and migraines. However, Dr Peterlin ventures a possible explanation:
“It is not clear how body composition could affect migraine. Adipose tissue, or fatty tissue, secretes a wide range of molecules that could play a role in developing or triggering migraine. It is also possible that other factors such as changes in physical activity, medications, or other conditions such as depression play a role in the relationship between migraine and body composition […] As obesity and being underweight are potentially modifiable risk factors for migraine, awareness of these risk factors is vital for both people with migraine and doctors.”
A further limitation of the study may be that in approximately half of the studies, migraines and BMIs were reported by the participants, which could mean that some of the data were inaccurate.
The authors admit that more research is required to confirm that losing or gaining weight might help to lower the risk of migraines.