Results from a recent meta-analysis found that both obesity and underweight are associated with an increased risk for migraines. Prior research had indicated an association between higher weight and migraines and while exact mechanisms are not known, it has been postulated that overweight individuals may have increased adipose tissue secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines, increased adipocytokines, and increased circulating sex hormones all of which may play a role in migraine development and severity. Studies have also shown patients with migraines have changes in several signaling molecules such as IL-6, which is part of the inflammatory pathway.

Examining 12 studies, that included over 280,000 participants, Dr. Gelaye and his team from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, used odds ratios and confidence intervals to determine the association of BMI and the World Health Organization (WHO) physical status categories with migraines.

After performing multivariate adjustments for age and sex, the pooled data showed that obesity significantly increased risk for migraines by 27% as compared to normal weight participants (odds ratio [OR] 1.27; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.16-1.37, p < 0.001). However, the data also indicated in underweight individuals there was a lower, but still significant risk of 13% for migraines (OR 1.13; 95% CI 1.02, 1.24, p < 0.001).

Based on this pooled data analysis, both over and underweight body compositions have an increased risk for migraines. Additional research needs to be done to determine if a change in body composition will change the migraine status such as weight loss for individuals with obesity or weight gain in those individuals who are underweight.

Why is this clinically relevant?

  • Clinicians should include asking about history of migraines in both underweight and overweight patients
  • Raised BMI likely contributes to occurrence and severity of migraines
  • Underweight patients may also be at risk for migraines
  • Achieving and maintain appropriate weight  may alleviate or at least decrease risk for migraines


Link to abstract  




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