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Increased Body Weight Associated with Migraine

Frequent migraine and obesity have long been linked, but now researchers understand that being overweight is also associated with migraine attacks that occur less frequently.

B. Lee Peterlin, DO, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, and colleagues recently completed a study that evaluated the link between episodic migraine (migraine less than 15 days per month) and obesity, as well as how age, race and gender affect that link. They found that obese people were 81% more likely to experience episodic migraine

“These results suggest that doctors should promote healthy lifestyle choices for diet and exercise in people with episodic migraine,” Dr. Peterlin said. “More research is needed to evaluate whether weight loss programs can be helpful in overweight and obese people with episodic migraine.”

Researchers included 3,862 patients in their study; 1,044 participants were obese, and 188 reported episodic migraine.

Researchers also found that the association between episodic migraine and obesity is stronger in those under age 50, white, and female.

The authors caution that the study did not prove that obesity causes episodic migraine; more research will be needed to determine if that is true.  However, the findings have clinical importance.

“These results suggest that doctors should promote healthy lifestyle choices for diet and exercise in people with episodic migraine,” Dr. Peterlin said.

Arthur Elkind, MD, the President of the National Headache Foundation, noted that he concurs with the author and believes healthcare professionals should counsel obese migraine sufferers to diet and follow a healthier lifestyle, as such steps may result in fewer migraine attacks. He also encouraged healthcare professionals to include that information with more complete guidance for maximum effect.

“The advice is often offered for so many illnesses that it may be less than effective unless comprehensive counsel is forthcoming from the treating professional,” he said.

This article appeared in the Sept. 11 issue of Neurology.

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