May 26, 2020

The role of diet and nutrition in migraine triggers and treatment: a systematic literature review

N A Hindiyeh et al, 2020. The role of diet and nutrition in migraine triggers and treatment: a systematic literature review, Headache, published online.


Background: Migraine is a disabling primary headache disorder often associated with triggers. Diet-related triggers are a common cause of migraine and certain diets have been reported to decrease the frequency of migraine attacks if dietary triggers or patterns are adjusted.

Objective: The systematic literature review was conducted to qualitatively summarize evidence from the published literature regarding the role of diet patterns, diet-related triggers, and diet interventions in people with migraine.

Methods: A literature search was carried out on diet patterns, diet-related triggers, and diet interventions used to treat and/or prevent migraine attacks, using an a priori protocol. MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were searched to identify studies assessing the effect of diet, food, and nutrition in people with migraine aged ≥18 years. Only primary literature sources (randomized controlled trials or observational studies) were included and searches were conducted from January 2000 to March 2019. The NICE checklist was used to assess the quality of the included studies of randomized controlled trials and the Downs and Black checklist was used for the assessment of observational studies.

Results: A total of 43 studies were included in this review, of which 11 assessed diet patterns, 12 assessed diet interventions, and 20 assessed diet-related triggers. The overall quality of evidence was low, as most of the (68%) studies assessing diet patterns and diet-related triggers were cross-sectional studies or patient surveys. The studies regarding diet interventions assessed a variety of diets, such as ketogenic diet, elimination diets, and low-fat diets. Alcohol and caffeine uses were the most common diet patterns and diet-related triggers associated with increased frequency of migraine attacks. Most of the diet interventions, such as low-fat and elimination diets, were related to a decrease in the frequency of migraine attacks.

Conclusions: There is limited high-quality randomized controlled trial data on diet patterns or diet-related triggers. A few small randomized controlled trials have assessed diet interventions in preventing migraine attacks without strong results. Although many patients already reported avoiding personal diet-related triggers in their migraine management, high-quality research is needed to confirm the effect of diet in people with migraine.

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