Study Reviews

Supplementation with omega-3 as treatment for migraine headache

  • 07/05/2018

Migraine headache is a common chronic disease with a progressive and episodic course. Its causes are still unclear, although they are known to involve genetic factors, cerebral vasoconstriction, raised glutamate levels in the active phase of the disease, magnesium deficiency, alterations to the monoaminergic pathways, mitochondrial and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) alterations and neurogenic inflammation. Menstrual cycle, pregnancy, lifestyle, diet, anxiety and chronic stress can also contribute to the pathogenesis of migraine. Neuron activity increases during the active phase of the disease, leading to the release of proinflammatory peptides in the nerve endings; various studies confirm the role of inflammation in the development and progression of migraine headache.

A large number of clinical trials have demonstrated the beneficial effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (n-3 FAs) on inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, lupus erythematosus, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and migraine. The inflammation-limiting effect has been demonstrated in different situations and at different doses. Consuming n-3 FA leads to an increase in FA content in the phospholipids of blood cell membranes, especially cells involved in the inflammatory response, such as neutrophils, lymphocytes and monocytes. Some of the effects of n-3 FAs are related to modulation of the amount and types of n-3 FA-derived eicosanoids, which lead to a reduction in concentrations of C-reactive protein, proinflammatory eicosanoids, cytokines, chemokines and other inflammation markers. Other effects are independent of eicosanoids and include the intercellular signalling pathways, transcription factor activity and gene expression.

One study found that administration of sodium valproate and fish oil significantly reduced the duration, frequency and severity of headache compared to medication alone. Another study found that two months’ supplementation with 1 g of n-3 FA significantly reduced the frequency and duration of migraines.

Nutritional supplementation with n-3 FA is a potential alternative therapy for migraine headache and other inflammatory disorders, without the adverse effects of current treatments.