Literature Review

Active migraine in women linked to lower risk of developing T2DM

View on the News

Connection between migraine and type 2 diabetes still unclear

Although it has been noted for some time in the clinical setting, researchers are still unsure why there is an inverse association between active migraine and type 2 diabetes mellitus, as noted by Fagherazzi et al. in a recent study.

One explanation is the presence of calcitonin gene–related peptide in both animal models of energy metabolism and the pathophysiology of migraine. It is possible that insulin resistance and hyperglycemia damage the sensory neurons that produce the peptide. If these damaged nerves are soothed, migraine may resolve.

Other silver linings associated with active migraine include an increased likelihood of having a healthy cardiovascular system and decreased alcohol consumption.

The epidemiology of migraine and findings like those in this study prompt the question: What is migraine good for?

Amy A. Gelfand, MD , of the University of California, San Francisco, and Elizabeth Loder, MD , MPH, of Harvard Medical School in Boston made these comments in an editorial accompanying Dr. Fagherazzi’s study. They disclosed a number of financial relationships with companies marketing treatments for migraine.



Women with active migraines are less likely to have type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and show a decrease in migraine symptoms prior to diagnosis of T2DM, indicating an inverse relationship between hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinism, and migraines, according to recent research published in JAMA Neurology.

Guy Fagherazzi, PhD, Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, INSERM

Dr. Guy Fagherazzi

“Because plasma glucose concentration rises with time up to the point of type 2 diabetes occurrence, the prevalence of migraine symptoms may decrease,” Guy Fagherazzi, PhD, at the Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health at the Gustave Roussy Institute in Villejuif, France, and his colleagues wrote in their study. “Consequently, tracking the evolution and especially the decrease of migraine frequency in individuals with migraine at high risk of diabetes, such as individuals with obesity, irrespective of age could be the sign of an emerging increased blood glucose levels, prediabetes, or type 2 diabetes.”

The researchers used data from the prospective Etude Epidémiologique Auprès des Femmes de la Mutuelle Générale de l’Education Nationale (E3N) study, initiated in 1990 and identified 74,247 women (mean age, 61 years old) with self-reported migraine in a 2002 follow-up questionnaire who had 10-year follow-up data during 2004-2014. The women in the cohort were born during 1925-1950 and completed biennial questionnaires about their health, including migraine status and medications, since 1992. The participants were divided into groups based on no migraine (49,199 participants), active migraine (7,839 participants), or prior migraine history (17,209 participants), and patients with T2DM at baseline were excluded.

Dr. Fagherazzi and his colleagues found 2,372 cases of type 2 diabetes over the follow-up period. Women who had active migraine status were less likely to have T2DM (hazard ratio, 0.80; 95% confidence interval, 0.67-0.96) than were the participants who did not have migraines, and this inverse association persisted after the researchers adjusted for factors such as myocardial infarction, education level, family history of diabetes, body mass index, smoking status, hypertension, physical activity, oral contraceptive use, menopausal status, menopausal hormone therapy, handedness, antimigraine preparations, and other prescribed migraine drugs (HR, 0.70; 95% CI, 0.58-0.85).

In the participants who developed T2DM, the researchers also found that there was a decrease in the prevalence of active migraine in the 24 years prior to T2DM diagnosis from 22% (95% CI, 16%-27%) to 11% (95% CI, 10%-12%) after adjusting for T2DM risk factors, which was then followed by an up to 22-year plateau in migraine prevalence of 11% for these participants.

“The linear decrease of migraine prevalence long before and the plateau long after type 2 diabetes diagnosis is novel and the association deserves to be studied in other populations,” Dr. Fagherazzi and his colleagues wrote. “The potential beneficial role of both hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinism on migraine occurrence needs to be further explored.”

The researchers noted limitations in the study, such as self-reported migraine by participants in the cohort, exclusion of non–pharmacologically treated T2DM cases, observational nature of the study, and homogenized population in the E3N cohort consisting of mainly women in menopause who were teachers and belonged to the same health insurance plan.

This study was funded by a grant from the French Research agency. The E3N cohort study was funded by the “Mutuelle Générale de l’Education Nationale,” European Community, French League against Cancer, Gustave Roussy, and French Institute of Health and Medical Research. Dr. Kurth is an advisory board member for CoLucid and has received funding for a research project from Amgen, honoraria from Lilly, lecture support from Novartis and Daiichi Sankyo, and travel support from the International Headache Society, as well as provided BMJ with editorial services.

SOURCE: Fagherazzi G et al. JAMA Neurol. 2018. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2018.3960.

Next Article: