New research has found that obese individuals who suffer from migraines could reduce the frequency and intensity of their headaches by losing weight.
Carried out by researchers at the University of Padova, Italy, along with a team of researchers from the United States, the new meta-analysis looked at a total of 473 patients across 10 different studies to investigate the effect of weight loss, either through bariatric surgery or behavioral interventions, on migraine frequency and severity.
The studies included both adults and children and also assessed how long migraines lasted and disability as well as BMI (body mass index) and BMI changes.
The findings, presented on Saturday, March 23 at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in New Orleans, USA, showed that in both adults and children weight loss was linked with significant reductions in the frequency of headaches, how long they lasted, the intensity of the pain, and disability.
The researchers also found that neither BMI at the start of the study or the amount of weight lost appeared to have any effect on the improvements observed. Migraine improvements were also similar whether weight was lost through bariatric surgery or behavioral intervention.
"If you suffer from migraine headaches and are obese, losing weight will ameliorate the quality of your family and social life as well as your work and school productivity. Your overall quality of life will greatly improve," said lead study author Claudio Pagano, M.D., Ph.D.
"Weight loss in adults and children with obesity greatly improves migraine headache by improving all the main features that worsen migraineurs' quality of life," he added. "When people lose weight, the number of days per month with migraine decreases, as does pain severity and headache attack duration."
"Weight loss reduces the impact of conditions associated with obesity, including diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke and respiratory diseases," Pagano said. "Obesity and migraine are common in industrialized countries. Improving quality of life and disability for these patients will greatly impact these populations and reduce direct and indirect healthcare costs."
Why obesity and weight loss might be linked to migraine headaches is still unclear, say the researchers, however they suggest that changes in chronic inflammation or behavioral and psychological risk factors could be some of the factors at play.