Eating more folate, which is found in various green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, may reduce migraine frequency, a research team from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia has found.

Folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, which is a B-vitamin, has been known to reduce migraine symptoms, but it has not been clear if dietary folate would have the same effect.

For this study, Lyn Griffiths, a genomics researcher at QUT, and colleagues examined data from a previous study of 141 women who had migraine with aura. The researchers found that women who ate more folate and folic acid had significantly fewer migraine attacks than their counterparts who ate less.

“We suggest diet can potentially play an important role in decreasing migraine-associated disability,” Professor Griffiths said.

The women in the study all had a mutation of the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene, which has been linked to migraine with aura. Griffiths found that the particular genetic variations made a difference in outcomes and that some of the women may have required more folate or folic acid to see a decrease in their migraines compared to others, who responded more readily.

The initial study was conducted before 2009, when supplementing wheat with folic acid became mandatory in Australia. Now, Griffiths said, a follow-up study should be conducted to determine if the supplementation has resulted in fewer migraines among Australians.

Those who would like to increase folate in their diet can add a variety of healthy foods, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, eggs, broccoli, asparagus, cantaloupe and fortified grains.

The study appeared recently in the journal Headache.