Replacing vegetable oils with fish fat may be key for migraine sufferers

If you're someone who suffers from migraines, you may benefit from reducing the number of vegetable oils in your diet and replacing them with fish fat. That's according to a new study published by the NIH's National Institute on Aging, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The study focused on people who frequently suffer from migraines, a particularly intense and painful type of headache that may last for hours or days. The research builds upon a past study on a polyunsaturated fatty acid called linoleic acid, which is most often sourced from vegetable oils, and the role it may have in migraines.

This time around, the study involved 182 people who frequently suffered from migraines. The participants were split into three groups, each given meal kits: one kit had high levels of fatty fish oils and linoleic acid; one had high levels of fish fat and linoleic acid; and one had high levels of linoleic acid but low levels of fatty fish, which mirrors the typical American diet.

These meals were consumed over the 16-week study period. During that same time, the participants recorded how many days involved migraines, their medication use, and the intensity and duration of the migraines; they also recorded how the migraines impacted their lives, including things like work and school.

At the study's start, the average number of headaches the participants experienced per month was 16, including more than five hours of pain. The group that was given meals high in fatty fish and low in linoleic acid experienced a 30- to 40-percent decrease in how many migraines they experienced in a month, the number of hours a day spent experiencing 'severe headaches,' and the overall number of hours spent with headaches during the day.

The findings build upon evidence that increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in one's diet while reducing the amount of linoleic acid may be a useful lifestyle intervention for migraine sufferers.