Low carbohydrate diets have been steadily growing in popularity. Currently, the most highly-regarded is the ketogenic diet, which appears to offer a variety of health benefits. Now a new study indicates another benefit: a reduction in migraine headaches.
Migraine sufferers know the crushing headaches significantly lower quality of life. They affect millions of people around the world, and there is currently no “silver bullet” to prevent or treat them effectively.
Heavy migraines can be debilitating, but a new study shows that a low-carb diet could be the answer to avoiding crushing pain. The new research, conducted in Italy, tested subjects on a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet, forcing the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Results showed subjects experienced a “significantly reduced” number of migraine headaches within the first month.
Researchers in Italy tested volunteers on a high-fat, low-carb ‘ketogenic diet’ – which forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates – and found it “significantly reduced” the number of headaches within the first month.
In an interview with Danielle Bengsch at ResearchGate, lead researcher Cherubino di Lorenzo from the University of Rome explained:
Our hypothesis is that the combination of ketone bodies and changed glucose response could lead to the outstanding therapeutic effect we have observed in our patients.
Researchers studied 96 female subjects over six months. All were migraine sufferers who were seeing a dietician to lose weight. Forty-five of the subjects followed a very-low-calorie ketogenic diet for one month, then switched over to a conventional low-calorie diet. The other subjects followed a standard diet during the entire study.
Both groups experienced fewer headaches, but the results were much greater for subjects on the ketogenic diet. When the ketogenic dieters switched to the conventional low-calorie diet, the number of migraines increased, although they were still fewer than prior to the study.
One month into the study, subjects on a ketogenic diet averaged .91 headache days per month, as opposed to 5.11 days prior to treatment. The headaches were less frequent and also of shorter duration.
The ketogenic diet has previously been used to treat epilepsy, as well as its application to weight loss. It forces the body to burn fat with less oxidative stress on cells. It also reduces sterile inflammation, which has been linked to migraines. It does produce fatigue and nausea in a few people.
The researchers plan to continue studying this phenomenon.