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Migraine Linked To Belly Fat


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

It has been a known fact that extra weight, and more precisely belly fat, leads to an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even death. And now, according go a new study, overweight people are more likely to have migraines than those with a normal weight. In a new study abdominal obesity was found to be a better predictor of migraine activity than obesity in general in both men and women up until the age of 55.

B. Lee Peterlin, of Philadelphia's Drexel University College of Medicine, and her colleagues, examined data collected from 22,211 people in the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The survey included measurements of both abdominal obesity, measured by waist circumference, and overall obesity, as determined by body mass index (BMI), a measurement related to weight and height. All the participants were also asked to report whether they suffered from either migraine or severe headaches.

The study found that participants aged 20 to 55 who were extremely overweight i their waistline, were more likely to suffer from migraines or other severe headaches than those without abdominal obesity. About 37 per cent of women with belly fat said they experienced frequent episodes of headaches, while only 29 per cent of women with normal weight reported these problems. As for men, 20 per cent of those with abdominal obesity reported migraines compared to 16 per cent of those without the problem.

However, in adults aged 55 and older, migraine prevalence was the same in men with and without waistline obesity and was actually lower in women with waistline obesity - 14.4 per cent versus 17.4 per cent, the researchers reported.

"This is the age when migraine is most prevalent," said Peterlin. "Our findings suggest that both general obesity and abdominal obesity are associated with an increased prevalence of migraine in this age group."

Migraine is a neurological disorder characterized by severe headaches and nausea, and runs in families. Migraine is more common in women, who are three times more likely than men to suffer from a disorder. According to the most recent estimates from the National Headache Foundation, about 30 million people, almost 10 per cent of the population, in the United States suffer from migraine headaches.

"Men and women have body tissue distributed in different ways. After puberty women show more fatty tissue deposits in the hip and thigh area while men predominantly have more fatty tissue in the belly region. After menopause, women show more fatty tissue in the belly area as well. For some diseases, including heart disease and diabetes, excess fat around the waistline appears to be a stronger risk factor than total body obesity," says Peterlin.

Previous studies have linked extreme weight with a reaise in the frequency of migraines in people who already have them. But the new study is one of the few to suggest that obesity raises the overall risk for migraines. And it is the first study to examine whether waistline obesity may play a specific role in migraines and severe frequent headaches.

"These results, while still in the early stages, suggest that losing weight in the stomach area may be beneficial for younger people who experience migraine, and especially so for women," explained Lee Peterlin, and added that though it is already a proven fact that exercise and active way of life improve mood and relieve headaches, there is still need for more scientific evidence in order to prove that losing weight will help in migraine.

The findings will be presented at the 61st annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Seattle, April 25 to May 2, 2009.

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