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Ketogenic Diet Could Prevent Migraine Headaches

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 27 Oct 2016
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A new study suggests that a ketogenic diet (KD) may prevent migraine headaches by regulating the balance between excitation and inhibition at the cortical level.

Researchers at Sapienza University (Rome, Italy), Don Carlo Gnocchi Onlus Foundation (DCGOF; Milan, Italy), and other institutions conducted a study in 18 people suffering from migraine to identify cortical electrofunctional correlates of responsiveness to a short-lasting preventive intervention with KD. Al patients underwent visual evoked potentials (VEPs) and median nerve somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs) before and after one month of KD-induced ketogenesis.

The results showed that after one month, a significant reduction in mean migraine attack frequency and duration was observed. While KD did not change the 1st SSEP and VEP block of responses, it significantly induced normalization of the interictally reduced VEP and SSEP habituation during subsequent blocks. The researchers suggest that a possible mechanism of action in KD is the restoration of normal EP habituation via potentiation of mitochondrial energy metabolism. The study was published in the December 2016 issue of The Journal of Headache and Pain.

“Each molecule of ketone bodies produces more energy than glucose, but less oxidative stress, so the brain and the muscles work more efficiently. This effect of ketone bodies as energetic boosters is very important in migraineurs, because they have an energetic deficit in the brain,” said lead author Cherubino Di Lorenzo, PhD, of DCGOF. “Ketone bodies also have an anti-inflammatory effect. This is also important because ‘sterile inflammation’ is at the heart of migraines. The ketone bodies dampen the neural inflammation that’s both common in epilepsy and migraines and modulate the cortical excitability.”

KD is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that was originally used to treat refractory epilepsy in children by forcing the body to burn fat rather than sugars. Normally, carbohydrates in food are converted into glucose. However, if there is very little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies that pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood (ketosis), leads to a reduction in the frequency of epileptic seizures.

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Don Carlo Gnocchi Onlus Foundation
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