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Moderately high dietary riboflavin linked to fewer migraines



– People with moderately high levels of riboflavin consumption from food – two to three times the recommended dietary allowance – had a significantly lower prevalence of a recent severe or migraine headache in a study of more than 3,600 younger U.S. adults.

Dr. Margaret Salvin, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.

Dr. Margaret Slavin

Adults 20-50 years old who consumed 2.07-2.87 mg riboflavin (vitamin B2) in food a day based on a 24-hour recall questionnaire had an adjusted, statistically significant 27% reduced prevalence of a recent severe or migraine headache, compared with people in the lowest quartile of dietary riboflavin intake, 1.45 mg/day or less, Margaret Slavin, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society. Foods particularly high in riboflavin include eggs, milk, and meat.

Dietary riboflavin intakes greater than 2.87 mg/day were not linked to a difference in the prevalence of a recent history of severe or migraine headache, compared with lowest-quartile consumption. Additionally, riboflavin intake from supplements alone at any level of consumption also showed no statistically significant link with the prevalence of a recent, severe headache, said Dr. Slavin, a nutrition and food studies researcher at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

The “vast majority” of people in the study had a riboflavin intake that at least matched the U.S. recommended dietary allowance (RDA),1.3 mg/ day for men and 1.1 mg/day for women), “but it’s possible that people with migraine headaches need more riboflavin,” Dr. Slavin suggested. Professional societies in the United States (Neurology. 2012 Apr;78[17]: 1346-53) and Canada (Can J Neurol Sci. 2012 Mar;39[Suppl 2]S8-S28) have gone on record with some level of recommendation for a daily riboflavin supplement of 400 mg to prevent migraine headaches, she said.

A U.S. guideline that included riboflavin has been “retired” because of an issue unrelated to riboflavin, according to the Neurology website.

The new study ran data collected in the biennial National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), specifically the surveys from 2001-2002 and 2003-2004. The combined data included 5,528 adults 20-50 years old, and 3,634 with complete data and without an excluding condition such as pregnancy, diabetes, or menopause. Among the study participants 884 reported having “severe headaches or migraines,” during the 3 months preceding the survey and the remaining 2,750 people served as controls. People who reported recent severe headache or migraine overall had a significantly lower average amount of vitamin B2 in their diet than did the controls, but the two subgroups showed no significant differences in their levels of riboflavin intake from supplements, or from both diet and supplements combined.

The researchers calculated odds ratios for people having severe headaches or migraines relative to their riboflavin-intake quartile, and they adjusted the findings for age, sex, body mass index, and alcohol intake.

Further analysis that looked at total riboflavin intake, from both food and supplements, showed that the two middle quartiles for this metric, with a combined riboflavin intake of 1.6-3.8 mg/day, had a significantly reduced prevalence of recent severe or migraine headaches, compared with the lowest-intake quartile, with an odds ratio that roughly matched the dietary riboflavin analysis.

Dr. Slavin has received research funding from the Egg Nutrition Center, the Maryland Soybean Board, the McCormick Science Institute, and PepsiCo.

SOURCE: Slavin M. Headache. 2019 June;59[S1]:1-208, Abstract LBOR04.

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