Researchers at the University of California have shown how reducing the consumption of certain fatty acids reduces headaches.


More than five million people suffer recurring headaches and very intense. They are migraines and, according to data from the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN), for more than 70% these headaches represent a serious disability and for 14% a moderate disability.

Although there is still no solution that ends these pains, researchers from the University of North Carolina (United States) point out in a study published in the journal The BMJ a habit that can alleviate its severity. Specifically, they point to the consumption of certain fatty acids.

In statements to the media, experts say that “our ancestors ate very different amounts and types of fats compared to our modern diets.” They also explain that polyunsaturated fatty acids, which our body does not produce, have increased substantially in our diet due to the addition of oils such as corn, soybeans and cottonseed to many processed foods such as potatoes or crackers ”.The classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids examined in this study are omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-3). Both have important functions within our body, but they must be in balance, as n-3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease inflammation and some derivatives of n-6 have been shown to promote pain.

A case study

However, due to the amount of processed foods consumed today, most people in the United States consume substantially more n-6 fatty acids and less n-3. To see if the amount of these fatty acids in a person’s diet could affect headache pain, 182 patients enrolled currently diagnosed and seeking treatment for migraines in this randomized, controlled trial.

In addition to their current treatments, patients adhered to one of three diets for 16 weeks: a control diet that maintained the average amount of n-6 and n-3 fatty acids consumed by a person living in the United States. A diet that increased n -3 and maintained n-6 ​​fatty acids, and a diet that increased n-3 fatty acids and decreased n-6. Participants received 2/3 of their daily food needs, and were also given an electronic diary to record how many hours a day they had a headache.

Patients who followed either diet experienced less pain than the control group. Furthermore, those who followed the diet high in n-3 fatty acids and low in n-6 fatty acids experienced the most improvement.

According to the researchers, “this change in diet could have an impact.” They point out that the effect they saw in reducing headaches is similar to what they observed with some medications. Of course, they warn that “although the participants reported fewer headaches, some people did not change their perception of how headaches affected them.”