The British Medical Journal just published a study saying that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in omega-6 fatty acids can actually help prevent migraines. 1

While the research is new, and no one nutrient has been conclusively proven to reduce migraines, these findings about the critical role of essential fatty acids offer hope for the 15% of Americans who experience these recurrent, debilitating headaches—most of whom are women. 2

ABCs of omega-6 and -3

Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are both healthy fats that our bodies need. Omega-6 fatty acids help your body make energy and research shows they can aid your immune system. 3 Research is also indicating that omega-3 fatty acids may lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. 4

Here’s the problem: most of us consume too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3. We’re supposed to get about equal amounts, but the modern western diet has increased omega-6 consumption by 1500% over omega-3. 5

This imbalance can cause inflammation and contribute to a number of chronic health problems.

Looking at omega-3 and migraines

Let’s break down the recent promising study. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied people who experienced between 5 and 20 days of headaches each month. The 182 participants were divided into three groups to see how their diets might alter their headache patterns.

The first group consumed a standard Western diet. The second group added 1.5 grams of omega-3 daily. The last group added 1.5 grams of omega-3 each day and reduced their omega-6 intake by 75%.

At the beginning of the study, participants averaged a headache every other day, each lasting 5.4 hours.

But after 16 weeks, those who had adjusted their diets saw significant improvement. The people who increased their intake of omega-3 and lowered their omega-6 chopped off an average of 4 days of headaches per month, and the headaches they did have shortened by 40% to 3.2 hours.

The people who only increased omega-3 fatty acids had 2 fewer headache days, and the headaches shortened by 30%.

What it means for you

Incorporating more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet and cutting down on omega-6 can be an effective weapon against migraines.

Canola, sunflower, and soybean oils are some of the biggest sources of omega-6 fatty acids because they are inexpensive and used in many processed foods. Check food labels and use olive or coconut oil when you cook.

Omega-3s are abundant in fatty fish like mackerel and salmon, and chia and flax seeds. Additionally, an omega-3 supplement can boost your daily intake by 2000 mg.

Migraine sufferers know the beauty of each pain-free day. Let omega-3 contribute to the beauty of your life.

Let’s get healthier, together,

Your friends at Santo Remedio

References

[1] Ramsden, C. E., Zamora, D., Faurot, K. R., MacIntosh, B., Horowitz, M., Keyes, G. S., et al. Dietary alteration of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids for headache reduction in adults with migraine: randomized controlled trial. BMJ  2021; 374 :n1448. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n1448. https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1448

[2] Burch, R., Rizzoli, P., Loder. E. The Prevalence and Impact of Migraine and Severe Headache in the United States: Figures and Trends From Government Health Studies. Headache. 2018 April;58(4):496-505. https://doi.org/10.1111/head.13281

[3] Khandapure, S., Garvey, D.S., Janero, D., Letts, L.G. Eicosanoids in inflammation: biosynthesis, pharmacology, and therapeutic frontiers. Current Topics in Medical Chemistry. 2007;7(3):311-40. https://doi.org/10.2174/156802607779941314

[4] Calder, P. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Inflammatory Processes. Nutrients. 2010 March; 2(3): 355-374. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu2030355

[5]Simopoulos, A.P. The Importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio in Cardiovascular Disease and Other Chronic Diseases. Experimental Biology and Medicine. 2008 June; 233(6): 674-688. https://doi.org/10.3181/0711-MR-311

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