“It would be nice to see if this could be sustained, if weight loss may play a role, and if there are some people who may have stronger responses to dietary modification,” Rosen says.
For the study, Ramsden and his colleagues collected data on 182 people with frequent migraines.
In previous research, the investigators found that diets with lots of linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) from corn oil and other vegetable oils increased inflammation, while diets with less linoleic acid lowered inflammation.
“Diet can change the composition of the nervous system and the immune system,” Ramsden says.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of three diet plans. All received meal kits that included fish, veggies, hummus, salads and breakfast items.
Over 16 weeks, one group ate meals containing high levels of fatty fish or their oils while lowering linoleic acid. A second group received meal kits with high levels of fatty fish and higher linoleic acid. The third group was sent meal kits high in linoleic acid and lower levels of fatty fish to mimic average U.S. diets.
At the outset, participants averaged more than 16 headache days per month with more than five hours of migraine pain per headache day. Despite use of headache medications, these migraines had a severe effect on their quality of life.
The result: The diet lower in vegetable oil and higher in fatty fish resulted in a 30% to 40% reduction in total headache hours each day, severe headache hours each day and overall headache days each month, compared with a diet that included less fatty fish.