By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
March 28, 2011 -- In addition to helping severely obese people lose weight, bariatric surgery may improve migraines, according to a new study.
"Obesity is thought to contribute to worsening of migraine, particularly for severely obese individuals, yet no study has examined whether weight loss can actually improve migraine headaches in these patients," study author Dale Bond, PhD, of theMiriam Hospital says in a news release.
Bond says the small study "provides evidence that weight loss may be an important part of a migraine treatment plan for obese patients."
Weight Loss May Reduce Migraine Frequency and Pain
People in the study who reported getting migraines before weight loss surgery said the frequency of their attacks, as well as the pain of the headaches, decreased six months after their operations.
The patients by this time had lost an average of 66 pounds.
The Miriam researchers studied 24 severely obese patients from clinics in Providence, R.I., who had migraines and were set to have gastric bypass or laparoscopic gastric banding surgery. Most (88%) of them were female, middle-aged, and the average body mass index was 46.6 before surgery. Body mass index is a ratio of height and weight used to determine whether people are overweight or obese.
A normal BMI is in the 18.5-24.9 range, a person is considered overweight with a BMI of 25-29.9, and 30 or higher is obese.
Six months after surgery, the average BMI of patients was 34.6.
Weight Loss by Surgical Means Helps Migraine Sufferers
Researchers assessed migraine severity by using questionnaires before bariatric surgery and then six months later.
And the scientists report that headache frequency fell from 11.1 days in the 90 days before surgery to 6.7 days in the same period six months after surgery.
The researchers say that the odds of at least a 50% reduction in the number of headache days were higher in patients who lost the most weight, regardless of the type of weight loss surgery done.
Half of the patients reported moderate to severe disability related to migraines, but this fell to 12.5% after the operations.
Migraine Improvement Evident Even When Patients Stay Obese
"It's interesting to note that headache improvements occurred postoperatively even though 70% of participants were still considered obese six months after surgery," Bond says in the news release.
The findings suggest that weight loss can help alleviate migraines even if a person remains obese after surgery, he says.
Though the study was small, its findings seem promising, according to the researchers. They note that more studies are needed to see if nonsurgical weight loss may have a similar effect on migraine headaches.
The study is published in the March 29 issue of Neurology.
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