According to some case studies, migraine patients benefit from a low-carbohydrate diet. [Funct Neurol. Oct-Dec 2013;28(4):305-8.] Are these coincidences, or can drastically reducing carbohydrate intake actually protect against migraines? According to a trial in which nearly a hundred volunteers participated, the latter is the case.
StudyItalian researchers published a trial in 2015 in the European Journal of Neurology in which 96 women who regularly had migraines participated as test subjects. The women were overweight and went on a diet for six months.
The researchers divided the women into two groups. The women in the control group reduced their energy intake [SD]. The women in the experimental group ate as much as the women in the control group, but switched to a low-carbohydrate diet for a month [KD].
The women consumed no more than thirty grams of carbohydrates per day. After the low-carb month, the researchers gradually reintroduced the carbohydrates into the diet of the women in the experimental group.
ResultsThe low-carbohydrate diet reduced the number of migraine attacks and the number of days that the subjects suffered from migraine.
MechanismThe researchers suspect that a low-carbohydrate diet inhibits inflammation in the brain and reduces the production of aggressive molecules by the mitochondria. This may reduce the risk of migraine attacks.
Conclusion"Although far from considering our data suggestive for the introduction of ketogenic diets as an alternative prophylactic treatment for migraine, our results may shed light on an interesting, but neglected, biological phenomenon, i.e. ketogenesis seems to improve migraine headache", summarize the Italians.
"Nonetheless, they may provide a useful strategy for migraineurs who need to treat headaches and who are overweight and/or experience a weight increase as a side effect of cyclic prophylactic treatments for migraines."
"Besides, since other ketogenic diet schemes (e.g. the modified Atkins diet) are suitable for very long diet periods, it cannot be excluded that ketogenesis might be used in the future as an additional therapeutic strategy for migraines, as it is in paediatric epilepsy."
"Further controlled studies are needed to confirm our preliminary findings."