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Losing Weight Linked to Improved Migraine Relief, Study Indicates

Allison Inserro
A presentation of a meta-analysis at ENDO 2019 said losing weight can help improve migraines. 
A recent meta-analysis indicated that losing weight could help decrease migraine frequency, pain, and duration, according to a presentation at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

While the researchers said the mechanisms linking obesity, weight loss, and migraine headache remain unclear, they said they could include alterations in chronic inflammation, adipocytokines, obesity comorbidities, and behavioral and psychological risk factors. Migraine and obesity are both highly prevalent and chronic diseases, and other research has shown that obesity may influence frequency and severity of migraine attacks and is a risk factor for migraine progression.

This study looked at the effect of weight loss through bariatric surgery or behavioral intervention on migraine frequency and indices of severity.

Using 3 databases, researchers retrieved 10 studies (n = 473). Selected outcomes were headache frequency, pain intensity, disability and attack duration while body mass index, (BMI), BMI change, type of intervention (bariatric vs behavioral), and type of population (adult vs pediatric) were used for moderators and meta-regression analysis.

The results showed that weight loss yields significant reductions in headache frequency (effect size [ES] -0.65; 95% CI, -0.88 to -0.42; P <.0001), pain intensity (ES -0.81; 95% CI, -1.19 to -0.44; P <.0001), disability (ES -0.61; 95% CI, -0.77 to -0.45; P  <.0001) and attack duration (ES -0.35; 95% CI, -0.62 to -0.08; P = .01).

Improvement in migraine was not correlated either to the degree of obesity at baseline or the degree of weight reduction. In addition, the effect on migraine was similar when weight reduction was obtained with bariatric surgery or behavioral intervention and was comparable in adult and pediatric populations.

"Weight loss in adults and children with obesity greatly improves migraine headache by improving all the main features that worsen migraineurs' quality of life," said lead study author Claudio Pagano, MD, PhD, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Padova in Padova, Italy, in a statement. "When people lose weight, the number of days per month with migraine decreases, as does pain severity and headache attack duration."

"Weight loss reduces the impact of conditions associated with obesity, including diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke and respiratory diseases," Pagano said. "Obesity and migraine are common in industrialized countries. Improving quality of life and disability for these patients will greatly impact these populations and reduce direct and indirect healthcare costs."

The study is a collaboration between the University of Padova, Italy, and The Miriam Hospital/Brown Alpert Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island.


Di Vincenzo A, Beghetto M, Vettor R, Rossato M, Bond D, Pagano C. Effects of bariatric and non-bariatric weight loss on migraine headache in obesity. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Presented at: ENDO 2019, Endocrine Society Annual Meeting. New Orleans, Louisiana, March 23-26, 2019. Abstract SAT-108.

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