Studies on omega 3 and migraine have generally been infrequent and small, and they leave us with a lot of questions.
Take for example the 2001 study, done in France. 196 patients took 6g per day for 16 weeks. Though the migraine attacks themselves didn’t change a lot, frequency did, with 7.05 attacks in the placebo group and 5.95 attacks in the omega-3 group. That meant a 55% reduction in attacks – but wait! The placebo group also had a 45% reduction in attacks.
Take as another example this study from the USA of 27 adolescents. This one compared fish oil with olive oil (which is, by the way, also high in omega-3 fatty acid, but a different kind).
|Fish oil||Olive Oil|
|74% had shorter attacks||70% had shorter attacks|
|83% had less intense attacks||65% had less intense attacks|
|87% had fewer attacks||78% had fewer attacks|
It would seem that there is a strong placebo effect again – but remember, olive oil also has omega-3. Still, there was a significant difference between the fish oil and olive oil.
Why do these studies leave us with a lot of questions? For one thing, I would like to see improvement over time – a longer period of time. Unlike a drug that you take once and see your pain go down, omega-3 fatty acids are more likely to give improvement over time.
Also, we could go a long way trying different types of omega-3 supplements, and trying different dosages. Or, just eating more foods high in omega-3, such as certain types of fish, and flax oil.
Why Omega-3 is a good idea
There is still a lot of controversy over omega-3. Part of this is because the research is so new – it’s the "new super-food" and everyone is rushing to prove it or disprove it.
So for a while yet you can expect to see regular studies proving that omega-3 is great, or not so great.
But the general consensus seems to be that omega 3 is a good thing. And even though the omega 3 and migraine field is still largely unexplored, I suggest you talk to your doctor about an omega 3 supplement, or, better yet, try to get more omega 3 in your diet. Why?
- Taken in moderation, there are rarely downsides
- There is evidence in omega 3 and migraine studies that there is a benefit
- There are other likely benefits of interest to migraineurs. Migraine often comes along with heart disease and depression, for example. Some omega-3s have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Omega 3 seems to be great for your heart health and also for mood disorders.
So go ahead – add some more fatty fish to your diet (such as salmon), flaxseed oil and olive oil. If you want to try a supplement, fish oil seems to be best, with about 1-3 grams of DHA and EPA combined. Often 1g is recommended, but always talk to your doctor about taking a new supplement. One good brand is Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega, which uses fish oil and carefully filters out impurities.
Remember, don’t expect instant results. But taking fish oil for several months has helped many people, and seems to have health benefits beyond just cutting back on migraine attacks.