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Reuters, Published September 12 2012

Study: Migraines offer no greater obesity risk

Women who have migraines may have no greater risk of becoming overweight than other women, despite what some research has suggested, according to an international study.

Some studies have found a connection between excess weight and a higher rate of migraines, but they have mainly studied people at one point in time, leaving unclear whether the weight or the migraines came first.

The current study, which appeared in the journal Cephalalgia, looked at data from the Women’s Health Study, a long-term clinical trial that began following thousands of U.S. women in the mid-1990s.

“Our study should be reassuring that having migraine is not associated with future increase in relative body weight or obesity,” researcher Tobias Kurth, of the French national research institute INSERM and the University of Bordeaux, said by email.

Overall, women who had migraines at the outset were no more likely than other women to become overweight or obese over the next 13 years. The average weight gain in both groups was almost identical, at around 10 pounds.

In theory, migraines could contribute to weight gain indirectly, such as frequent or severe headaches keeping a person from regular exercise.

The new findings are based on 19,162 female health professionals who were aged 45 or older, and of normal weight, when they entered the study. Almost 3,500 reported a history of migraines.

Over the next 13 years, 41 percent of those women became overweight, while about 4 percent became obese. But the odds of becoming obese were no greater among women with a history of migraine, and the risk of becoming overweight was only slightly higher – 11 percent.

Severe migraines did not appear to carry a risk of extra weight either, Kurth’s team found. Women who had migraines weekly to daily were at no greater risk of becoming overweight or obese than those whose migraines came a few times a year.

The study did not look at whether overweight or obese women are at increased risk of migraines or more severe ones.

“That is still possible. In fact, several studies have now shown that obesity is associated with increased migraine frequency,” Kurth said.

There is also some evidence tying obesity to an elevated risk of developing migraines in the first place, but the prevalence of migraine has remained stable in recent decades, while obesity rates have soared, he added.