Increasing your omega-3 intake by eating more fish and shellfish helps fight migraines if you reduce your intake of other fats instead.

A diet rich in fatty fish and low in vegetable oils.  UNC Healthcare Department of Nutrition and Food Services.

A A diet rich in fatty fish has been shown to be most effective in reducing migraines and the intensity of the pain they cause in people prone to them, compared to those who took other fats and oils of vegetable origin. This is determined by a study by the US National Institutes of Health and the University of North Carolina published in the journal The BMJ.

The work was carried out with 182 adults with a tendency to suffer frequent migraines. The patients were fed according to an ‘American’ diet, in which the vegetable oils, from the corn or soy, are rich in linoleic acid; In Spain, on the other hand, olive oil that provides oleic acid prevails. In this case, after studying the trigeminal nerve, the largest and most complex nerve that runs through the skull, the team found a link between a diet low in linoleic acid and rich in omega-3, and the reduction of inflammatory pain.

The dietary intervention lasted for sixteen weeks, and each participant was randomly assigned one of three possible plans: foods rich in omega-type fatty acids from fish and shellfish, and low in linoleic acid; foods rich in both fatty fish and vegetable oils; and foods rich in linoleic acid but low in omega-3. The daily menu ranged from breakfast ingredients to other nutritionally complementary foods like salads or hummus.

Participants had to score how many days a week did they suffer from migraines during the duration of the intervention, as well as its intensity, the level of alteration in your daily life, and the need to take analgesics. The mean at the start of the study was established as 16 migraine days per month, with five hours of pain for each episode and a high deterioration in quality of life despite the use of a multiple range of anti-headache medications.

Thus, the low feedin linoleic acids and high in fatty fish achieved a reduction of between 30% and 40% of the hours of pain per day compared to the control group, as well as of the number of migraines suffered in the same month. At the end of the study, however, the reductions in pain episodes had not yet improved the participants’ perception of their quality of life.

Migraine is a neurological disease and one of the most frequent causes of chronic pain, loss of working hours and reduced quality of life in the world. An estimated four million people suffer it recurrently in Spain, and more than 90% cannot lead a normal life during an attack, which can last from three hours to three days. Women between the ages of 18 and 44 are the most vulnerable group, and medication offers only partial relief, with possible unwanted side effects.

According to Dr. Chris Ramsden, clinical researcher and research leader, “Diet changes could bring relief to the millions of people who suffer from migraine headaches. The study provides additional evidence on how the food we eat influences pain mechanisms“.

The authors of the study insist that their conclusions validate that dietary interventions aimed at increase healthy omega-3 fatty acids while reducing linoleic acid intake they are the most promising in terms of reducing the number and duration of migraines in people predipposed to suffer them without pharmacological intervention. They would be more effective in this sense, even to combat chronic pain of another nature, than for example fish oil supplements.