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Migraine frequency, intensity reduced with weight loss

Roshini Claire Anthony
05 Apr 2019

An additional benefit of weight loss among individuals with obesity may be the reduction in severity and frequency of migraines, a study presented at ENDO 2019 showed.

“Migraine and obesity are highly prevalent and chronic diseases [and] evidence has shown that obesity may influence frequency and severity of migraine attacks and is a risk factor for migraine progression,” said the researchers. Moreover, previous research has suggested a reduction in frequency of migraines following weight loss. [Obesity (Silver Spring) 2018;26:81-87]

“[The results of the present study showed that] weight loss in adults and children with obesity greatly improves migraine headache by improving all the main features that worsen migraineurs’ quality of life,” said study lead author Associate Professor Claudio Pagano from the University of Padova in Padova, Italy.

Pagano and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 10 studies comprising 473 individuals to identify the impact of weight loss – be it through bariatric surgery or behavioural intervention – on the frequency and severity of migraines.

Weight loss led to a significant reduction in multiple aspects of migraines such as frequency of headaches (ES, -0.65, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], -0.88 to -0.42; p<0.0001), pain intensity (ES, -0.81, 95 percent CI, -1.19 to -0.44; p<0.0001), disability (ES, -0.61, 95 percent CI, -0.77 to -0.45; p<0.0001), and duration of attack (ES, -0.35, 95 percent CI, -0.62 to -0.08; p=0.01). [ENDO 2019, abstract SAT-108]

The improvement in migraine was not associated with baseline severity of obesity or amount of weight loss. Furthermore, the effect was comparable regardless of type of weight loss intervention (bariatric surgery or behavioural intervention) and did not differ according to age group (children or adults).

According to the researchers, the mechanism behind the association between obesity, weight loss, and migraines is yet undetermined. However, they proposed that changes in chronic inflammation, adipocytokines, obesity-related comorbidities, and behavioural and psychological risk factors may be involved.

“Weight loss reduces the impact of conditions associated with obesity, including diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, and respiratory diseases,” said Pagano.

“When people lose weight, the number of days per month with migraine decreases, as does pain severity and headache attack duration. 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,” he added.

“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,” he said.

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