comscore The connection between obesity and migraines | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

The connection between obesity and migraines

Historians say that the swirling patterns in Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” illustrate what the artist saw during his migraine auras.

But migraine is more than a headache that can bring on visions; it’s linked to a constellation of medical conditions that make up metabolic syndrome, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and obesity.

In fact, folks who are obese are 81% more likely to be afflicted with episodic migraine headaches than healthy-weight people.

Great news!

Researchers from the University of Padova in Italy have figured out that if you have migraine headaches and are overweight, shedding extra pounds will reduce the number of days per month you have a migraine, how long an attack lasts and its severity.

Losing weight may reduce your risk of migraine because weight loss reduces bodywide inflammation; the inflammatory protein called “high sensitivity C-reactive protein” is 11% higher in folks with migraine.

Weight loss also makes it easier to become more active. Lack of physical activity is associated with as much as a 50% higher risk for migraine.

So if you’re overweight and have migraine, talk to your doctor about working with a nutritionist to help you shed those extra pounds; some research indicates that the ketogenic diet that’s helpful to some people with epilepsy also helps control migraine (make sure it relies on healthy fats and proteins from nuts, egg whites, salmon or ocean trout).

If your weight gain has happened since you started taking migraine-control medications (valproic acid, amitriptyline and flunarizine are associated with substantial weight gain), ask your doc about another therapy.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to

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