THURSDAY, July 1, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Interventions that increase dietary intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), with or without a decrease in linoleic acid, alter bioactive mediators that are implicated in migraine and reduce headaches, but they do not improve headache-related quality of life, according to a study published online June 30 in The BMJ.

Christopher E. Ramsden, M.D., from the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a three-arm trial involving 182 participants with migraines on five to 20 days per month. Participants were randomly assigned to the H3 diet (increase EPA+DHA to 1.5 g/day and maintain linoleic acid at around 7 percent of energy; 61 participants), the H3-L6 diet (increase EPA+DHA to 1.5 g/day and decrease linoleic acid to ≤1.8 percent of energy; 61 participants), or control diet (maintain EPA+DHA at <150 mg/day and linoleic acid at about 7 percent of energy; 60 participants).

Compared with the control diet, the researchers observed increases in circulating antinociceptive mediator 17-hydroxydocosahexaenoic acid with the H3-L6 and H3 diets. There were improvements seen in the test assessing headache impact on quality of life with both the H3-L6 and the H3 diets, but these were not statistically significant. The H3-L6 and H3 diets decreased total headache hours per day, moderate-to-severe headache hours per day, and headache days per month, compared with the control diet. The decrease in headache days per month was greater with the H3-L6 diet than the H3 diet.

“This study provides a biologically plausible demonstration that pain can be treated through targeted dietary alterations in humans,” the authors write. “Collective findings suggest causal mechanisms linking n-3 and n-6 fatty acids to nociception, and open the door to new approaches for managing chronic pain in humans.”

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