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Diet Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids Cuts Migraines in Adults

Diets with increased EPA, DHA with or without decrease in linoleic acid reduced headaches but did not significantly improve QOL

THURSDAY, July 1, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Interventions that increase dietary intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), with or without a decrease in linoleic acid, alter bioactive mediators that are implicated in migraine and reduce headaches, but they do not improve headache-related quality of life, according to a study published online June 30 in The BMJ.

Christopher E. Ramsden, M.D., from the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a three-arm trial involving 182 participants with migraines on five to 20 days per month. Participants were randomly assigned to the H3 diet (increase EPA+DHA to 1.5 g/day and maintain linoleic acid at around 7 percent of energy; 61 participants), the H3-L6 diet (increase EPA+DHA to 1.5 g/day and decrease linoleic acid to ≤1.8 percent of energy; 61 participants), or control diet (maintain EPA+DHA at <150 mg/day and linoleic acid at about 7 percent of energy; 60 participants).

Compared with the control diet, the researchers observed increases in circulating antinociceptive mediator 17-hydroxydocosahexaenoic acid with the H3-L6 and H3 diets. There were improvements seen in the test assessing headache impact on quality of life with both the H3-L6 and the H3 diets, but these were not statistically significant. The H3-L6 and H3 diets decreased total headache hours per day, moderate-to-severe headache hours per day, and headache days per month, compared with the control diet. The decrease in headache days per month was greater with the H3-L6 diet than the H3 diet.

“This study provides a biologically plausible demonstration that pain can be treated through targeted dietary alterations in humans,” the authors write. “Collective findings suggest causal mechanisms linking n-3 and n-6 fatty acids to nociception, and open the door to new approaches for managing chronic pain in humans.”

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