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Belly Fat May Make Migraines More Likely

Age and gender also affect chances of having debilitating headaches

THURSDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Being overweight may increase the risk of migraine headaches in young and middle-aged adults, suggests a U.S. study that included 22,211 people.

Age, gender and the way body fat was distributed affected migraine risk. People ages 20 to 55 who had larger waistlines were more likely to have migraines than those with smaller waistlines.

Migraine was reported by 37 percent of women in that age group who had excess abdominal fat, compared with 29 percent of those without abdominal obesity. Among men 20 to 55 years old, 20 percent of those with excess belly fat reported migraine, compared with 16 percent of those without it.

Among those older than 55, total body obesity wasn't associated with migraine in women or men. But the risk of migraine actually decreased among women older than 55 with large waistlines.

The study, which was released Thursday, is scheduled to be presented during the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Seattle, April 25 to May 2.

"These results, while still in the early stages, suggest that losing weight in the stomach area may be beneficial for younger people who experience migraine, and especially so for women," study author Dr. B. Lee Peterlin, of Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, said in an American Academy of Neurology news release.

"Men and women have body tissue distributed in different ways," Peterlin said. "After puberty, women show more fatty tissue deposits in the hip and thigh area, while men predominately have more fatty tissue in the belly region. After menopause, women show more fatty tissue in the belly area as well. For some diseases, including heart disease and diabetes, excess fat around the waistline appears to be a stronger risk factor than total body obesity."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about migraine.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, Feb. 12, 2009

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