Dr's Casebook: Including oily fish in your diet could help reduce migraines

Migraine is a common health condition that affects one in five women and one in every 15 men.

Saturday, 11th September 2021, 4:45 pm
Increasing fatty fish in the diet could reduce migraines. Photo: Getty Images

It usually begins in early adulthood and can be a real problem that impacts on family, social and working life.

The exact cause of migraines is unknown, although they are thought to be the result of temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain.

About half of all people who experience migraines also have a close relative with the condition, which suggests that genes may play a role.

Most migraine sufferers are aware that certain foods will trigger an attack, so their diet usually has to eliminate such provoking foods and drinks.

New research has found that a fish-based diet can help to reduce the monthly number of headaches and the intensity of pain experienced.

In this study of more than 180 people with frequent migraines, the researchers allocated people to one of three healthy diet plans.

Participants all received meal kits that included fish, vegetables, hummus, salads, and breakfast items.

One group received meals that had high levels of fatty fish or oils from fatty fish and lowered linoleic acid, such as is found in vegetable oils and some nuts and seeds.

A second group received meals that had high levels of fatty fish and higher linoleic acid from additional vegetable oils and nuts.

The third group received meals with high linoleic acid and lower levels of fatty fish, which resembled the average diet. The participants monitored the frequency and intensity of headaches, as well as how the headaches affected their abilities to function at work, school or in their social lives.

They also recorded how and when they had to take medication to alleviate the migraines.

The fish diet lower in vegetable oil and higher in fatty fish produced between 30 and 40 per cent reduction in migraine.

The diet with the higher linoleic acid had slightly more headaches.

The researchers concluded that increasing omega-3 fats by taking oily fish and reducing linoleic acid sources, from vegetable oils seemed to significantly reduce their migraines.

They also found that increasing the fatty fish in the diet produced a reduction in headaches, which was not seen when people

simply took fish oil supplements.