Increasing Intakes of EPA/DHA Lowers Chronic Daily Headaches [ISSFAL 2012]

June 1, 2012


Metabolic and Clinical Effects of Low n-6 and Low n-6 and High n-3 Dietary Interventions in Chronic Daily Headache Patients
Ramsden , C. et al., National Institutes of Health , NIAAA Section on Nutritional Neurosciences, USA
(The present report is filed on-site by the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute from the 10th Congress of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids held in Vancouver, BC)


The researchers allocated 68 patients (average age of 41 years) with chronic headaches to one of two dietary interventions for 12 consecutive weeks. Group 1 consumed a diet with reduced intakes of omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids and typical US intakes of omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids while Group 2 also had reduced intakes of omega-6 fatty acids but with markedly increased intakes of EPA/DHA omega-3 from various food sources. The daily EPA plus DHA intakes were estimated to be less than 80 mg in Group 1 but approx.1500 mg in Group 2 (rising from a median of 47 at day 0 to 1482 mg/day at 12 weeks).

While no significant changes (from day 0 to 12 weeks) were found in the control group (low omega-3 intakes), those on the high EPA/DHA diets exhibited a significant decrease in headache impact (by 12 % overall) and a decrease in headache days (by 38 % overall). The researchers concluded that targeting dietary fatty acid changes which include marked increases in EPA/DHA omega-3 intakes may be a useful strategy for reducing headache morbidity.

Dr. Holub's Comments:

Following the presentation of his study results, Dr. Ramsden offered the following quote to the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute: "Some people with chronic daily headaches who have exhausted pharmaceutical options may now have the option of trying a dietary intervention. Reduced consumption of the omega-6 fat, linoleic acid, combined with eating more fish, was associated with a marked reduction in the number of headache-days". The mechanisms which underlie the very interesting clinical findings on the pain-alleviating potential of EPA/DHA as applied to headaches remains for further study. To what extent the formation of anti- inflammatory products from EPA/DHA known as resolvins and protectins play a role is of added interest.

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