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Migraine Does Not Lead to Weight Gain

Migraine has previously been linked with weight gain, but a recent large study has determined there is good news for migraineurs. Women with migraine are not at greater risk of becoming overweight than other women.

For this study, researchers followed 19,162 women of normal weight, ages 45 and older, who participated in the Women’s Health Study. Nearly 3,500 of the women reported a history of migraine. Over the course of nearly 13 years of follow-up, the mean amount of weight gained by both migraineurs and non-migraineurs was similar, about 10 pounds in both groups.

“Our study should be reassuring that having migraine is not associated with future increase in relative body weight or obesity,” Reuters quoted researcher Tobias Kurth, MD, of the French research institute INSERM and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The study appeared online in the August issue of the journal Cephalagia; in the October issue of the journal, an editorial praised the study. The editorial’s author, Marcelo E. Bigal, MD, PhD, the Global Director of Scientific Affairs at Merck, Inc. and a longtime headache researcher, indicated he believes this is the first such study to look at whether or not migraine predisposes people to gaining weight.

The results of the study, combined with the results of previous studies, provide answers to other issues related to obesity and migraine, he noted. Research shows that while obesity is not linked to theprevalence of migraine, it does appear to increase migraine frequency; obesity appears to predispose people to migraine specifically, not headache in general, and finally, Dr. Bigal writes that obesity increases the risk of frequent migraine, but the opposite does not appear to be true, as this study indicates—migraine does not predispose people to obesity. This point is important clinically, he said, and health care professionals should take note and provide care accordingly.

“Be careful with the association, as you would when treating a patient with migraine overusing opioids,” he wrote. “These are not empty calories.”

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