With past studies showing that elevated ketone levels may exhibit benefits for those with neurological conditions like epilepsy, can a ketogenic (keto) diet help one of the world's other most common neurological conditions - migraine?
Migraine is a debilitating condition that affects over 5 million Australians and is the third most common health condition worldwide.
While there are many known ways to prevent and treat migraines, many are often poorly tolerated or ineffective, making way for new treatment strategies to be considered.
A 2021 study by researchers from the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and The University of Newcastle has looked at whether a keto diet can offer some relief to migraine sufferers.
A keto diet is characterised by a high-fat, low carbohydrate and moderate-protein intake diet plan. By dramatically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat, the body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis, using elevated ketone levels as a source of energy as opposed to blood sugars.
The aim of the study was to investigate whether a keto diet was more effective than other evidence-based dietary patterns (i.e. diets that avoided commonly known headache triggers like caffeine, MSG, and histamines) for reducing migraine frequency, severity, and duration.
Eligible study participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups, which designated which dietary intervention they would follow first: a keto diet, or “anti-headache” diet. Both groups followed their respective diets for 4 weeks, followed by a two-week “washout period” during which participants could resume their normal diet, and then participants switched to the other dietary intervention (the opposite to which they started) for the final 4 weeks. Migraine frequency, duration and severity, location, medications, and relief methods used were all reported using the Migraine Buddy app.
The study found that while the keto diet was not any more effective than an “anti-headache” diet in reducing migraine frequency or severity, it did shorten migraine duration by 6 hours.
The study also found that adults who experience migraine find it difficult to follow a keto diet accurately, and even those who do follow the diet closely experience side effects like fatigue and gastrointestinal complaints.
With migraine triggers also varying from person to person, and common triggers including stress, hormone changes, poor sleep, bright lights, caffeine and other diet-related triggers, the study also highlighted that future research should consider how migraine intervention strategies can be personalised to the needs of specific individuals.
This study was published by HMRI and University of Newcastle researchers Dr Rebecca Haslam, Mr Aaron Bezzina, Miss Jaimee Herbert, Professor Neil Spratt, Dr Megan Rollo and Laureate Professor Clare Collins in Healthcare. Read the full study here Can Ketogenic Diet Therapy Improve Migraine Frequency, Severity and Duration? (nih.gov)