Obese Women and Men Under 50 Years Old at Greater Risk of Episodic Migraine

New General Population Epidemiological Study Looks at the influence of Age, Sex and Race on the Migraine and Obesity Association

BOSTON, June 26, 2013 –Obesity joins the list of risk factors in episodic migraine, along with age, sex and race, according to a new study presented this week at the International Headache Congress scientific sessions in Boston.

A team of investigators led by Dr. B. Lee Peterlin at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reported results of a cross-sectional analysis of 3,862 black and white adult participants in the National Comorbidity Survey Replicated.

“There has been controversy about whether obesity is associated with an increased risk of migraine in general or if this risk was limited to just chronic or high frequency migraine sufferers,” said Dr. Peterlin. “This study demonstrates that the risk of migraine in those with obesity extends to episodic migraineurs, even those with low frequencies.  Specifically, in those with obesity, the odds of episodic migraine in general were increased by 81%, while the odds of lower frequency episodic migraine increased by 83-89%.  Further, we found that the risk of episodic migraine in those with obesity was greatest in those under 50 years of age, white individuals, and women.”

Episodic migraine defines those individuals with migraine who experience 14 or less headache days per month (i.e. less than or equal to 168 headache days per year), as contrasted with chronic migraine, which is characterized by 15 or more headache days per month (i.e. 180 or more headache days per year).

In addition to John Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Brown Alpert Medical School and Harvard authored the study.

The study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the John W. Alden Trust, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health.

This year’s meeting of some 1,000 migraine and headache researchers and treatment specialists from around the world is co-sponsored by the American Headache Society.  Its theme, “Revolutionizing Headache Care Through Science,” is presented for healthcare professionals involved in the care of patients with head, neck, and or facial pain.



Some 36 million Americans suffer from migraine, more than have asthma or diabetes combined.  More than six million Americans suffer from chronic migraine, a highly disabling neurological disorder. Migraine can be extremely disabling and costly, accounting for more than $20 billion in direct (e.g. doctor visits, medications) and indirect (e.g. missed work, lost productivity) expenses each year in the United States.


IHS, founded in the United Kingdom in 1982, is the world’s leading membership organization for those with a professional commitment to helping people affected by headache. The purpose is to advance headache science, education, and management, and promote headache awareness worldwide. IHS publishes the international journal Cephalalgia.


The American Headache Society (AHS) is a professional society of health care providers dedicated to the study and treatment of headache and face pain. The Society’s objectives are to promote the exchange of information and ideas concerning the causes and treatments of headache and related painful disorders. Educating physicians, health professionals and the public and encouraging scientific research are the primary functions of this organization. AHS activities include an annual scientific meeting, a comprehensive headache symposium, regional symposia for neurologists and family practice physicians, publication of the journal Headache and sponsorship of the AHS Committee for Headache Education (ACHE).  www.americanheadachesociety.org


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