Three cups of coffee a day may increase migraine risk

Henrietta Strickland
August 11, 2019

Overall, "drinking one or two caffeinated beverages in a day does not appear to be linked to developing a migraine headache, however three or more servings may be associated with a higher odds of developing a headache", lead investigator Elizabeth Mostofsky said in a journal news release.

While migraines have always been studied, they remain cloaked in mystery, even as a number of triggering factors have been identified, such as genetic predisposition, environmental changes (fatigue, stress, variations in weather), and certain dietary choices.

The experiment involved 98 people with episodic migraines.

Participants filled out an online survey twice a day for six weeks to record their caffeine intake - including the number of servings of coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks they consumed - and whether they experienced a migraine headache that day. Other factors with the potential to induce migraine were also considered ranging from medication use, sleep patterns, alcohol intake, activity levels, depressive symptoms, psychological stress, and menstrual cycles.

There was no link between migraine headache and consumption of one or two caffeinated beverages, except for those who nearly never have caffeine.

Approximately 87 percent of Americans consume caffeine daily, with an average intake of 193 mg per day. Rather, their migraines were no more frequent during those days compared to days when they didn't drink any caffeine. This self-matching eliminated the potential for factors such as sex, age, and other individual demographic, behavioral and environmental factors to confound the data.

To see how caffeine had an effect on developing migraines, the researchers analyzed almost 100 adult participants, all of whom were prone to migraines. A serving of caffeinated tea was put at six ounces and each energy drink was limited to two ounces, for instance, a single 5-Hour Energy shot.

The paper states: We can not assess whether the association varies by beverage type, adding: We can not quantity the amount [of caffeine] associated with heightened risks. "However, in this self-matched analysis over only six weeks, each participant's choice and preparation of caffeinated beverages should be fairly consistent", Mostofsky added.

The study researchers found that, among people with periodic migraine headaches, consuming at least three caffeinated drinks a day was tied to a higher likelihood of experiencing a migraine on that day or the following day.

A team of Harvard University scientists have studied the effects of coffee consumption on patients suffering from migraines in order to determine whether caffeine played a role in the triggering of headaches.

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.

"Physicians need to consider the amount of shots in a serving", Minen told MedPage Today. For example, the researchers describe eight ounces of coffee as a serving.

"People may consume caffeine and then have a caffeine withdrawal headache or they may have a headache and then try to self-treat with the caffeine", Minen said. But the researchers mentioned several other limitations of the study: it did not tie results to beverage type or preparation method. "Against the backdrop of the USA opioid epidemic, it's concerning that people may be using these drugs in place of conventional therapies proven to be safer and more effective for migraine".

Potential Conflicts of Interest: Dr. Bertisch reports receiving research support from Merck, Sharpe & Dohme, Lockheed Martin (DARPA primary funding source), ApniMed, and has served as a consultant for Verily.

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