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High omega-3 diet could reduce migraines, researchers say

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A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids could reduce migraines by up to half, especially for young women, a new study has shown.

Researchers found a high omega-3 diet could slash persistent headaches by two to four per month.

The fatty acids, which can be found in supplements and oily fish, have also been shown to have a beneficial effect on the heart.

According to the NHS, a healthy, balanced diet should include at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish.

Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the research involved 182 people – 88% were women with an average age of 38 who suffered from migraines five to 20 times a month.

Upset depressed young woman lying on couch feeling strong headache migraine, sad tired drowsy teenager exhausted girl resting trying to sleep after nervous tension and stress, somnolence concept
Image: The fatty acids are found in oily fish such as sardines and salmon

The women were divided into three groups, with the amount of omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid – EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid – DHA) varying according to the diet, while the omega-6 linoleic acid was also monitored.

During the trial participants were provided with oil and butter formulations and protein foods, including fish, to achieve the varying levels.

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They also completed a migraine impact test and recorded the frequency of headaches daily with an electronic diary.

Those on a high omega-3 diet of 1.5g a day saw a reduction of two headache days per month.

Meanwhile, the women in the high omega-3 plus low omega-6 diet saw four fewer headache days a month.

Experts from the University of North Carolina said there were limitations to the study, including that it was confined to relatively young women.

However, they said the study “provides a biologically plausible demonstration that pain can be treated through targeted dietary alterations in humans”.

In a linked editorial, Rebecca Burch, at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the US, said the results support recommending a high omega-3 diet to patients in clinical practice.