Being overweight and underweight can increase migraines

Research has shown that being both overweight and underweight are associated with an increased risk for migraine. The researchers looked at all available studies on body mass index (BMI) and migraine (a meta-analysis). The researchers feel that more research is needed to determine whether certain people could lose or gain weight to lower their migraine risk.

A total of twelve studies with 288,981 participants were included in the meta-analysis. When the researchers compiled all of the results and adjusted for both age and sex, they found that obese people were 27% more likely to have migraine than people of normal weight and underweight people were 13% more likely to have migraine than people of normal weight.

In the study, obesity was defined as a BMI of 30 or higher and underweight was defined as a BMI of less than 18.5. The researchers said the risk between obesity and migraine was moderate and similar in size to the association between migraine and bipolar disorders and ischemic heart disease.

Both obesity risk and the occurrence of migraine is more common in women and in younger people. It is possible that adipose tissue, or fatty tissue, secretes a wide range of molecules that could play a role in developing or triggering migraine. It it also possible that other factors such as changes in medications, physical activity, or conditions such as depression play a role in the relationship between migraine and body composition. Limitations of the meta-analysis include that for half of the studies people self-reported that they had migraine and for more than half of the studies people self-reported their own body mass index.

Thus it is important that one works toward a healthy body weight in order to lower their risk of suffering from migraines.


Bizu Gelaye, Simona Sacco, Wendy J. Brown, Haley L. Nitchie, Raffaele Ornello, B. Lee Peterlin. Body composition status and the risk of migraine. Neurology, 2017.

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