EPA and DHA omega-3s may help people with regular headaches

Background: Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are integrally involved with brain function and cellular health. They work in cells (e.g., nerve cells, red blood cells) but they are also the source of “ingredients” that make other important compounds. These other compounds have diverse functions in the body, some of which are related to managing headaches.

Study description: Men and women who reported having headaches that lasted more than 4 hours a day on 15 or more days per month were recruited for this study and then divided into two groups. Both groups consumed diets that contained limited amounts of omega-6 fats (e.g., from vegetable oils), but one of the groups also consumed high amounts of EPA and DHA omega-3s. Blood levels of compounds made from DHA omega-3 and the omega-6 fatty acid, arachidonic acid, were measured. The study lasted 12 weeks.

Significantly fewer headaches and less psychological distress was reported in the group who consumed more omega-3s but not the other group. Although these findings are ‘by association’, they support the need for more research to learn if simple and affordable changes in the diet, such as increasing omega-3s from fish oil, can help reduce headaches and distress.

General summary: Increasing consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 from fish while limiting the intake of omega-6 fats was related to significantly fewer headaches and less distress.


Reference: Ramsden CEZamora D, et al. J Pain 2015 [Epub ahead of print]


GretchenGretchen Vannice, MS, RDN

Nutrition Consultant

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