February 26, 2011

Childhood Migraines Raise Weight Gain Risk

A new study, published in the journal Headache, has found that girls who get migraines appear more likely than their peers to gain extra weight during adulthood.

Reuters reports that scientists found that four in ten women with childhood migraines had added at least 22 pounds since age 18, compared to three in ten women who never had the excruciating headaches.

Other studies have linked migraines to obesity, but the new results held up even after taking into consideration that children plagued by the painful headaches might have been heavier to begin with.

It is possible that the pain, which is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting, makes women eat differently or alters their physical activities, but the study only looked at the link between migraines and weight gain.

Michelle A. Williams, of the University of Washington in Seattle, who led the research, said the findings hint that weight and migraines may actually somehow fuel each other.

Williams and her team analyzed data on more than 3,700 women who were being followed by another study on pregnancy outcomes.

The researchers asked each woman what her weight and height were at age 18 and also just before she got pregnant, and whether she had ever been diagnosed as having migraines.

More than one in six women said they had been diagnosed with migraine -- a common problem in women that costs the US $20 billion a year in lost productivity and healthcare.

Among women with normal weight, about one in six had a migraine diagnosis, while one in four obese women had one. After ruling out various other factors, such as high blood pressure and smoking, migraine risk was still higher among heavy women, and rose with weight gain.

"Relative to normal weight women, severely obese women have more than a doubling in odds of migraine," Williams told Reuters Health by email.

One limitation of the study, however, is that the researchers had to rely on women's own memory. Still, the results support previous research showing a link between weight and headaches in kids and young adults. That link, however, appeared to weaken as women got older.

A 2009 study found that heavy children who lost weight while receiving treatment for their headaches started having headaches much less often than their peers whose weight remained stable or had increased.

"I would endorse the advice offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that promotes a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and avoidance of adult weight gain," Williams said.

Williams noted that more research is needed.


On the Net: