Excess weight linked to migraines

June 7, 2009 5:51:27 AM PDT
Too much weight around the middle has been linked to diabetes and heart disease. Now, Philadelphia researchers are adding migraines to the list.Denise Brasher says her migraine headaches began during college, when she started gaining weight. By the time she had a family, Denise had a weight problem - and chronic, debilitating headaches.

"I was watching the world go by, and I was laying in bed, sick as a dog," Denise said.

Obesity has been linked to the frequency and severity of migraines.

But now, Drexel University researchers say too much weight may actually be a root cause for migraines.

"In fact, both total body density and abdominal obesity were associated with a greater odds of having migraine," said Dr. B. Lee Peterlin of the Drexel University College of Medicine.

Dr. Lee Peterlin says belly fat, in particular, may play a specific role because it secretes inflammatory proteins.

"The actual fat cells function differently in the abdominal region as compared to say the leg region," she said.

In his study, 20 to 55 year-old women with big waistlines reported the most migraines. It's not clear if losing weight will help, but there is hope.

"One study that followed migraine patients over a month period on a low-fat diet, did show a decrease in headache frequency," said Dr. Peterlin.

Denise dropped some weight, and sure enough, her headaches eased up.

"I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to get to the point where I'm able to, you know, live an everyday lifestyle, free of migraines most of time," she said.

Also found in this study is that headaches seem to decrease after the age of 55, regardless of a woman's waist size.

That may be due to decreasing levels of estrogen, and how the hormone reacts with abdominal fat.

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