A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduces the incidence of headaches compared to a diet rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the BMJ reported.
Omega-3 fatty acids are precursors of oxylipins, molecules involved in the regulation of inflammation and providing pain relief. However, oxylipins from omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, increase pain and can trigger migraines.
To find out if omega-3s can be used to combat headaches, scientists tested whether a diet rich in healthy fatty acids could raise levels of the pain-relieving 17-hydroxydocosahexaenoic acid (17-HDHA).
The study involved 182 people (including 88 women) with migraine headaches that last from 5 to 20 days a month. They were randomly divided into three groups, each of which followed a different diet for 16 weeks. The control diet consisted of typical amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids consumed. The other two diets (interventional) were characterized by increased levels of omega-3, but in one of them the level of consumed omega-6 fatty acids remained the same, and in the other, it was reduced.
At 16 weeks, both intervention diets increased 17-HDHA levels compared to the control diet, and although HIT-6 scores improved in both intervention groups, they did not differ statistically significantly from the control group.
At the same time, omega-3 fatty acids reduced the duration of headaches by 1.3 hours per day and by 2 days per month. If at the same time the level of consumed omega-6 fatty acids is reduced, then the duration will decrease by 1.7 hours per day and by 4 days per month.