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What We Know About Oils and Migraines

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Among all the common migraine triggers (such as caffeine, chocolate, and even condiments with vinegar), oils have likely not been high on the list.  However, new research reports that particular vegetable oils are implicated in the onset of migraines.

                Following 182 adult migraine sufferers for sixteen weeks, the National Institute of Aging looked further into a connection between linoleic acid and migraines.  Linoleic acid is one of the fatty acids which has been known to affect migraines and is found in vegetable oils with higher levels of Omega 6 fatty acids than Omega 3 fatty acids.

                Corn, sunflower, hemp, canola, and soybean oil are some of the vegetable oils highest in linoleic acid.  The linoleic acid was previously found to cause inflammation within the cranial trigeminal nerve which causes the pain and symptoms associated with migraines. 

The participants were divided into three groups which focused on attaining the fats in their diets from different areas:  high amounts of fatty fish and lower amounts of the other vegetable oils high in linoleic acid; high amounts of fatty fish with high levels of linoleic-acid containing vegetable oils; or very low amounts of fatty fish and high amounts of linoleic acid from oils.

                The group of participants who had the highest amount of fatty fish in their diets and ate the least amount of other vegetable oils experienced a reduction in their migraine symptoms.  It’s believed to be due to the higher amount of Omega 3 fatty acid intake which is an natural anti-inflammatory to brain tissue.

                One of the major downfalls to the standard Western diet is the imbalance in Omega fatty acids, particularly Omega 3 and Omega 6.  When kept in balance, there are benefits to both kinds, but when the ratio is upset, inflammation occurs systemically. This study suggests this can be a contributing factor to investigate with your doctor.


Ramsden, CE, et al. Dietary alteration of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids for headache reduction in adults with migraine: randomized controlled trialBMJ, July 1, 2021; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.n1448


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