Review Assesses Role of Vitamin D in Migraine Mechanism, Treatment

March 7, 2020
Gianna Melillo

Gianna is an assistant editor of The American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC®). She has been working on AJMC® since 2019 and has a BA in philosophy and journalism & professional writing from The College of New Jersey.

Eighteen out of 30 studies included in a recent literature review, published in Nutrients, showed a link between serum vitamin D levels and headaches, with the strongest connection established between serum vitamin D and migraine.

Eighteen out of 30 studies included in a recent literature review, published in Nutrients, showed a link between serum vitamin D levels and headaches, with the strongest connection established between serum vitamin D and migraine.

The review, which collected all articles concerning the relationship between primary headache and vitamin D up to October 2019, included entries from databases such as EMBASE, MEDLINE, PubMed, Google Scholar, and the Cochrane library.

Although researchers did not find enough evidence to recommend vitamin D supplementation to every patient with a headache, “the current literature indicates that [vitamin D] may be beneficial in some patients suffering headaches, mainly migraineurs, to reduce the frequency of headaches, especially in those with vitamin D deficiency,” authors said.

Migraines can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours and may include symptoms like nausea, phonophobia, photophobia, and transient neurological symptoms. In 2016 it was estimated that almost 3 billion people had a headache disorder, and 1.04 billion suffered from migraine.

Vitamin D has many known benefits, and deficiencies can lead to an array of health complications. According to authors, approximately 30% to 80% of children and adults worldwide are affected by vitamin D deficiency.

“Vitamin D can control up to 200 genes connected with many health areas,” and can increase intestinal absorption of magnesium when activated.

Established functions of vitamin D include diminishing inflammation, influencing the immune systems, modulating cell growth, and controlling the neuromuscular system. It is also a “potent antioxidant, thus contributing to the vascular health of the brain,” according to authors.

Deficiencies have been associated with pain disorders like fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders, and increased risk of some cancers. However, a causal relationship between the vitamin and these conditions has not been established.

In the study, authors reviewed articles comprised of clinical trials, observational, cross-sectional, and case-control studies.

“Most studies revealed vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency in migraine patients, while some other studies showed normal vitamin D levels (levels ranging from 12.40 to 38.08 ng/mL),” authors said, highlighting the mixed results.

For example, one study “found no correlation between serum vitamin D, vitamin D binding protein, and vitamin D receptor levels and headache characteristics,” while a separate study “did discover a linear negative correlation between days with headache and serum vitamin D levels (Pearson’s correlation coefficient of 0.506; P <.001),” researchers said.

One concrete conclusion drawn from the review was the fact that a large proportion of headache patients suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Authors also note that vitamin D supplementation appears to be a safe form of treatments as “even at high doses… (up to 10,000 IU/day), no major adverse events have been reported.”

Researchers suggest future studies on the benefits of vitamin D ought to be conducted as currently there is not sufficient evidence to recommend supplementation to all patients with headaches. “[Vitamin D supplementation] may be beneficial in selected patients to reduce the frequency of headache, mainly in migraineurs, especially in those with vitamin D deficiency,” authors said.

Reference

Nowaczewska M, Wicinski M, Osinski S, Kazmierczak H. The role of vitamin D in primary headache- from potential mechanism to treatment. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):243. doi: doi.org/10.3390/nu12010243.