There has been a great deal of attention paid to the link between obesity and other dangerous conditions. Most people understand that if you are overweight or obese, your risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease increases. However, some new research conducted at Johns Hopkins University has found a direct link between obesity and migraine headaches.
The researchers wanted to see if they could establish a link between the development of episodic migraine headaches and obesity. Episodic migraines are characterized by 0-14 episodes per month of pulsating pain located on one side of the head or face, lasting between several hours or days, aggravated by physical activity, and associated with photophobia (fear of light), nausea, and vomiting. Episodic migraine is much more common in females between the ages of 30-50 but it’s estimated that they occur in approximately 15% of the population.
The study interviewed 3,862 participants who were interviewed as part of the National Comorbidity Survey. After the information was analyzed, the researchers found that there was an 81% greater chance of experiencing episodic migraines in the participants who were obese compared to people who were of a normal weight. In addition, the researchers found that as normal weight people progressed to become overweight and then obese, there was a direct and increasing trend toward the risk of episodic migraine.
PLUS: Is Obesity Really a Disease?
According to the lead researcher Dr. L. Peterlin, the possible mechanism between obesity and migraines could be attributed to the association between obesity and the level of inflammation in the brain. Certainly, there has been previous research indicating that increased levels of inflammation inside the arteries of the brain might be a significant factor in migraine development, which explains why migraines are frequently treated with anti-inflammatory drugs.
In my opinion, the reason why increased amounts of body fat seem to confer a direct risk of developing migraines is because of the higher levels of inflammation associated with excessive body fat accumulation. As levels of body fat continue to rise, insulin resistance becomes much more profound. High levels of insulin create an internal environment of inflammation inside the arteries of the heart, neck, brain, and kidney. Inflamed arteries can cause local changes to blood flow and pain. It’s really no surprise that the results of this study indicated that migraine risk is directly related to the degree of body fat accumulation.
However, the most important information that this research reveals is that the likelihood of episodic migraine progressing to the chronic form greatly increases as the amount of body fat increases. Chronic migraine is an extremely debilitating disorder with a natural progression of approximately 2.5 % per year from episodic migraine. The message is clear: control of body weight is not just important to prevent chronic disease development, but also to prevent a painful and debilitating condition which can greatly impact the quality of life.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Anderson, P., “Obesity Increases Risk for Episodic Migraine,” Medscape website, July 16, 2013; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/806930?nlid=31883_1301&src=wnl_edit_dail&uac=205413HV, last accessed July 16, 2013.
Katsarava, Z., et al., “Defining the Differences Between Episodic Migraine and Chronic Migraine, Current Pain and Headache Reports,” Current Pain and Headache Reports. February 2012; 16(1):86-92,
Durham, P., et al., “Biomarkers Associated With Migraine and Their Potential Role in Migraine Management,” Headache. July 12, 2013.