Pediatric Migraine Linked to Future Weight Gain in Women

A new study finds that the risk of progressing from episodic headaches to chronic daily headaches in 1 year is significantly higher in obese individuals.

The risk of progressing from episodic headaches to chronic daily headaches in a year was 5 times higher in obese than normal weight individuals, according to new research published in the journal Headache, which also established a link between pediatric migraine and adult weight gain. While many studies had investigated the risk of migraine and migraine characteristics among obese subjects, the risk of weight gain among migraineurs had not previously been examined.

In a large population-based study, Michelle A. Williams, ScD, of University of Washington School of Public Health and colleagues looked at the possible association between pediatric migraine and adult life weight gain. The authors analyzed the data from the Omega Study, a prospective cohort study designed to identify risk factors of adverse pregnancy outcomes; a cohort of 3733 women of reproductive age were included in this study. History of physician-diagnosed migraine, self-reported weight, height, and other demographic information were obtained from structured questionnaire and review of medical records.

Of the women studied, 18% reported a history of physician-diagnosed migraine. Women with a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 30 had 1.48-fold increased odds of migraine, and the odds were even higher for those who were severely obese (BMI 35-39.9) and morbidly obese (BMI ≥ 40, 2.75-fold higher), suggesting that there is a correlation in the severity of both disorders and consistent with previous literature.

Although there was no difference in BMI at age 18 in both groups, those with a history of pediatric migraine were more likely to have a higher pre-pregnancy BMI at the time of the study and therefore greater adult weight gain. Pediatric migraineurs were 1.67-fold more likely to gain at least 22 pounds after age 18 than non-migraineurs after adjusting for confounders.

In addition to revealing an association between pediatric migraine and adult weight gain, the study is the first to address the risk of adult weight gain in subjects who experienced migraine during childhood or adolescence. The results also confirm the association between migraine and obesity in reproductive age women, which suggests that there may be a bi-directional relationship between the two disorders, according to the authors.

Williams and colleagues believe that future prospective studies are warranted to confirm this finding, and to examine the possible effects that migraine medications and differences in lifestyle may have on weight.