Being seriously overweight can nearly double a person's chances of suffering migraines, a study has found.

Obese people were 81 per cent more likely to have episodic migraines than those of normal weight, scientists found.

Episodic migraines affect the vast majority of sufferers, who have the severe headaches for less than 15 days a month. In contrast, those with chronic migraines feel unwell for more than half the days in the month.

The research suggests that weight loss and exercise could help those who suffer from migraines. The findings also indicated the link between the condition and obesity is stronger in those under the age of 50.


"Previous studies have shown a link between people with chronic migraines and obesity, but the research has been conflicting on whether that link existed for those with less frequent attacks," said researcher Dr Barbara Lee Peterlin, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

"As obesity is a risk factor that can potentially be modified and since some medications can lead to weight gain or loss, this is important for people with migraines and their doctors."

For the study, 3,862 people with an average age of 47 filled out surveys with information on height, weight and migraines.

A total of 1,044 participants were obese and 188 of the participants had occasional, or episodic, migraine, which is defined as 14 or fewer migraine headaches per month.

Obese people were 81 per cent more likely to have episodic migraine of any frequency as compared to people of healthy weight.

Dr Peterlin said the results should prompt doctors to promote healthy lifestyle choices for diet and exercise in people with episodic migraine.

"More research is needed to evaluate whether weight loss programmes can be helpful in overweight and obese people with episodic migraine," she added.

The results also showed that the link was stronger in those under 50, when migraine is most prevalent.