Culture 3 min read

Migraine Attacks Could be Triggered by Excessive Caffeine Intake

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

According to a recently published paper in the American Journal of Medicine, taking a third cup of coffee may trigger migraine attacks.

Migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world. In the United States alone, someone visits the hospital every 10 seconds to complain of headache.

What’s more, about 1.2 million hospital visits are for acute migraine attacks.

The prevalent neurological disease tends to run in families. Reports suggest that about 90 percent of migraine sufferers have a family history of the said illness.

However, few studies have evaluated other triggering factors of migraine and the immediate effect of these suspected triggers.

That was what the researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) did.

Together, the team evaluated the role of caffeinated beverages as a potential migraine trigger.

Lead researcher of the project and investigator at BIDMC’s Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit, Elizabeth Mostofsky said:

“Caffeine’s impact depends both on the dose and on frequency, but because there have been few prospective studies on the immediate risk of migraine headaches following caffeinated beverage intake, there is limited evidence to formulate dietary recommendations for people with migraines.”

Mostofsky and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study to know the risk of migraine headaches with every cup of coffee.

How Caffeine Consumption May Trigger Migraine Attacks

For the study, the researchers invited 98 adults that have histories of frequent episodic migraine attacks to complete electronic diaries.

The volunteers had to report their caffeinated beverage consumption every morning and evening for at least six weeks. These include caffeinated coffee, tea, energy drinks, and soda.

They also had to provide other health-related information such as depressive symptoms, psychological stress, menstrual cycles, activity levels, and medication use, among others.

The researchers then used a self-matching analysis to compare an individual participant’s migraine incidence with the caffeinated beverage intake to the prevalence of migraine days without coffee intake.

“One serving of caffeine is typically defined as eight ounces or one cup of caffeinated coffee, six ounces of tea, a 12-ounce can of soda and a 2-ounce can of an energy drink,” said Mostofsky.

Since a serving could contain between 24 to 150 milligrams of caffeine, the researchers could not quantify the amount associated with an increased risk of migraine. But, the participants maintained a consistent choice of caffeinated beverage in the six weeks of the study, so it was easy to make an estimate.

After controlling for several conditions, the researchers found no association between one to two caffeine servings and the odds of headache on the same day. But, as the servings increase to three or more, the odds of having a migraine on the corresponding day increases.

For people that rarely drink a caffeinated beverage, one or two servings is always enough to increase the odds of having a migraine the same day.

Mostofsky noted:

“While some potential triggers – such as lack of sleep – may only increase migraine risk, the role of caffeine is particularly complex, because it may trigger an attack but also helps control symptoms.”

Read More: Relaxation Apps on Smartphone Can Help Manage Migraine

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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