Examining the Link Between Dietary Intake of Calcium, Magnesium With Migraine

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A cross-sectional study explores the relationship between magnesium, calcium dietary intake, and migraine among men and women.

High dietary intake of calcium and magnesium, either independently or in combination, was inversely associated with migraine among women, according to results of a cross-sectional study. Findings, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, also show high dietary calcium was negatively related to migraine in men, but no association between the condition and magnesium intake was found.

“Calcium and magnesium are essential minerals in the human body, and they are intimately related to each other and collectively influence several physiological functions, such as normal cellular physiology, signal transduction, and neurotransmitter release,” the researchers wrote. As previous studies have shown diet and nutrients are closely related to migraine, identifying these modifiable factors may help prevent and treat the condition.

Research has also shown migraineurs have lower serum magnesium levels compared with healthy controls. Although few studies have reported an association between calcium and migraine, studies have shown vitamin D deficiency is associated with migraine, while “promoting calcium absorption is an important physiological function of vitamin D,” authors wrote.

As most studies on calcium and magnesium for migraine prevention are limited to drugs and supplements, the researchers conducted a cross-sectional study examining the relationship between dietary calcium and magnesium intake. Supplements can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms including stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea.


Data from 1999 to 2004, gleaned from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) of Americans, were included in the analysis. A total of 10,798 adults, aged 20 years and older (5526 males and 5272 females) completed the series of surveys.

Researchers classified patients who reported having severe headache or migraine as having possible migraine. Of the nearly 11,000 participants, 2123 (19.7%) had migraine. Demographic data show these patients were more likely to be younger, female, non-Hispanic Black, report former drinking, be current smokers, have lower education levels, have lower prevalence of hypertension, have higher body mass index (BMI), and report a higher carbohydrate intake.

Results show the average daily intake of calcium and magnesium was significantly lower than recommended daily allowances (RDA) among migraineurs.

Analyses revealed:

  • Adjusted odds ratios (ORs) of the association between dietary calcium and magnesium and migraine for comparing the highest quintile intake with the lowest quintile intake were 0.77 (95% CI, 0.63-0.93; P = .008) and 0.69 (95% CI, 0.55-0.86; P = .001), respectively
  • For women, adjusted ORs of dietary calcium and magnesium were 0.72 (95% CI, 0.56-0.93; P = .009) and 0.62 (95% CI, 0.47-0.83; P = .001), respectively
  • For men, the adjusted OR was 0.71 (95% CI, 0.52-0.97; P = .028) comparing the highest and the lowest quintiled of calcium intake, but no statistically significant association between dietary magnesium intake and migraine was found
  • Joint analyses showed the OR in the high-calcium and high-magnesium group was 0.74 (95% CI, 0.60-0.92; P = .006) compared with the low-calcium and low-magnesium group in women

Investigators also found “Significantly decreased ORs (< 1.00) were observed when calcium intake ranged from 670 to 1700 mg/day. The ORs decreased with increasing dietary magnesium levels and were significantly lower than 1.00 when dietary magnesium intake was higher than 243 mg/day.”

As dietary calcium and magnesium intake are more convenient and may be safer than supplements, the researchers recommend this mode of intake as a priority and stressed American adults should increase their awareness of RDAs for calcium and magnesium. Green leafy vegetables, fruits, and nuts are rich in magnesium while soy products, dairy foods, and seafood are good dietary sources of calcium.

Results may not be generalizable to the world population, and future prospective longitudinal studies are needed to establish a causal relationship.


Meng S-H, Wang M-X, Kang L-X, et al. Dietary intake of calcium and magnesium in relation to severe headache or migraine. Front Nutr. Published online March 5, 2021. doi:10.3389/fnut.2021.653765