Vitamin D deficiency and increased chronic headaches

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland have shown that a vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of chronic headache. The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, analysed the serum vitamin D levels and occurrence of headache in approximately 2,600 men between 42 and 60 years old in 1984-1989. In 68% of these men, the serum vitamin D level was below 50 nmol/l, which is generally considered to be a vitamin D deficiency. In the study chronic headache occurring at least once a week occurred in 250 men, and men reporting chronic headache had lower serum vitamin D levels than others.

The study population was divided into four groups based on their serum vitamin D levels. The group with the lowest vitamin D levels had over a twofold increased risk of chronic headache in comparison to the group with the highest vitamin D levels. Chronic headache was also more frequently reported by men who were examined outside the summer months of June through September. The average serum vitamin D levels are higher during the summer months due to UVB radiation.

Other studies to date have shown a low intake of vitamin D leads to an increased risk of chronic diseases. Other past smaller studies have also shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with headache risk.

In countries far from Earth’s equator, UVB radiation from the sun is a sufficient source of vitamin D during the summer months. Outside of the summer, people need to get vitamin D from food or from vitamin D supplements to ensure they have enough.

The researcher did find any benefits and adverse effects at higher doses of vitamin D on headache risk. The Finnish Vitamin D Trial, at the University of Eastern Finland, is exploring this issue, as the five-year trial analyses the effects of high daily doses of vitamin D on the risk factors and development of diseases. Those in the trial are taking a vitamin D supplement of 40 or 80 micrograms per day. The trial is also exploring the effects of vitamin D supplementation on pain conditions.

For men who suffer from headaches, make sure you take a regular vitamin D supplement to possibly reduce the headaches. It is also easy to find out your vitamin D levels through a blood test that your doctor can order.


Jyrki K. Virtanen, Rashid Giniatullin, Pekka Mäntyselkä, Sari Voutilainen, Tarja Nurmi, Jaakko Mursu, Jussi Kauhanen, Tomi-Pekka Tuomainen. Low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D is associated with higher risk of frequent headache in middle-aged and older men. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 39697.

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