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Migraine is a neurological disorder commonly manifested as severe headache pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and light sensitivity. Approximately 15 percent of people worldwide experience migraine, with women reporting migraine more often than men. Findings from a new study suggest that oxylipins reduce headache pain among people with migraine.

Oxylipins are byproducts of polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism. They play both pro- and anti-inflammatory roles in the human body and are key regulators of pain. Whereas oxylipins derived from omega-6 fatty acids promote pain, those derived from omega-3 fatty acids reduce pain.

The authors of the report conducted a three arm, parallel group, randomized controlled trial. Participants included 182 adults (average age, 38 years) who experienced migraine headaches five to 20 times per month. They were randomly assigned to consume one of three specially designed diets that contained omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]) and an omega-6 fatty acid (linoleic acid) for 16 weeks. A high omega-3 diet provided 1.5 grams of EPA+DHA and approximately 7 percent of total caloric intake from linoleic acid daily. A high omega-3/low omega-6 diet provided 1.5 grams of EPA+DHA and approximately 1.8 percent or less of total calories from linoleic acid. A control diet provided less than 150 milligrams of EPA+DHA and approximately 7 percent of total caloric intake from linoleic acid daily. Participants tracked their migraine headache frequency, and the authors measured levels of 17-hydroxydocosahexaenoic acid (17-HDHA), a type of pain-reducing oxylipin, in the participants' blood.

The high omega-3 and high omega-3/low omega-6 diets decreased the number of headache hours participants experienced per day as well as the number of headache days experienced per month. The high omega-3/low omega-6 diet was nearly twice as effective at reducing the number of headache days per month than the high omega-3 diet, suggesting that lowering linoleic acid provided an additional beneficial effect. The high omega-3 and high omega-3/low omega-6 diets both increased 17-HDHA levels in the participants' blood, but the control diet did not.

These findings demonstrate that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce migraine headaches and highlight yet another beneficial health effect associated with these healthful fats.

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