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Can eating more fish reduce migraines?

Photo: Muratani/iStockphoto

Bethesda, MD — If you suffer from migraines, eating more of certain kinds of fish may help reduce the frequency and pain, results of a recent study by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the University of North Carolina suggest.

For 16 weeks, the researchers tracked 182 adults who followed one of three healthy diet plans, each containing fish, vegetables, hummus, salads and breakfast items with differing levels of fatty fish or fatty fish oils as well as vegetable oil.

Entering the study, participants averaged more than 16 headache days a month and more than five hours of migraine pain per headache day. Additionally, a brief questionnaire indicated migraines prompted “a severe impact” on most of the participants’ quality of life.

Findings show that consuming a diet with high levels of fatty fish or their oils and lower levels of linoleic acid found in vegetable oils contributed to a 30%-40% reduction in total and severe headache hours each day and overall monthly headache days.

The American Heart Association lists salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna as types of fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.

“Changes in diet could offer some relief for the millions of Americans who suffer from migraine pain,” Chris Ramsden, lead study author and clinical investigator with the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of NIH, said in a press release. “It’s further evidence that the foods we eat can influence pain pathways.”


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends anyone age 2 and older consume 8 ounces of seafood a week, based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet.

The study was published online July 1 in The BMJ, the journal of the British Medical Association.

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