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Health News Archive 31 - Headache and Migraine
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Melatonin Helps Prevent Migraine Headaches

The first study to assess the effectiveness of melatonin as a preventive for migraine was published in the August 24, 2004 issue of the journal Neurology. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain which induces sleep and has been shown to have many other health benefits.

"Altered melatonin levels have been found in cluster headache, migraine with and without aura, menstrual migraine, and chronic migraine," the researchers write.

Twenty-nine women and five men with episodic migraine who experienced two to eight migraine headaches per month were enrolled in the current study conducted by researchers at the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Participants were given 3 milligrams melatonin to be taken thirty minutes before bedtime each night for a three month period. Headache frequency, intensity, duration, and the consumption of pain relievers were recorded.

Of the thirty-two patients who completed the study, 78 percent experienced at least a 50 percent reduction in headaches, and no participants reported an increase. Eight patients experienced no migraines during the study period, seven had a greater than 75 percent reduction, and ten experienced a 50 to 75 percent reduction in headaches after three months of treatment with melatonin, with significant improvement demonstrated as early as one month. Duration, intensity, and the need for pain relief drugs also decreased over the course of the study.

In their discussion of the possible mechanisms of melatonin, Dr. Mario F. P. Peres and colleagues describe the circadian nature of some migraine attacks, which melatonin may affect. A possible anti-inflammatory effect as well as the ability to scavenge free radicals could also contribute to melatonin's protective effect against migraine. Other possible mechanisms are melatonin's ability to reduce proinflammatory cytokines, interfere with membrane stabilization, potentiate gamma-aminobutyric acid and opioids, protect against glutamate neurotoxicity, contribute to neurovascular regulation and modulate serotonin.

Reference: Neurology, August 24, 2004 (

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2nd Study Confirms Coenzyme Q10 May Stop Migraine Headaches

Coenzyme Q10 can stop migraine attacks in humans, according to a double-blind placebo-controlled study presented at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in April 2004.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled study involved 42 subjects who suffered an average of 4.4 migraine attacks per month. The patients were not allowed to take any other migraine medication during the study.  For a month, all subjects consumed a placebo, and then some of the patients were randomly assigned to receive 100 mg of a liquid, water-soluble form of CoQ10 three times a day. The remaining subjects continued to receive a placebo.

Roughly 48 percent of the CoQ10 group experienced a 50% response rate during the three-month study. Only about 14 percent of those taking a placebo experienced the same response rate. In addition, the patients treated with CoQ10 experienced fewer migraine attacks per month—3.2 after treatment compared to 4.4 before treatment—while the placebo group experienced no reduction in migraine frequency. CoQ10-treated subjects also experienced more headache-free days than the placebo group and fewer days with nausea.

Although one subject developed an allergic skin rash after taking CoQ10, adverse effects were minimal. One of the researchers in the study pointed out that the rare side effects that occurred with CoQ10 were mild compared to side effects that occur with anti-migraine medications such as beta blockers.

The study results confirm those of an earlier study of CoQ10 and migraines (see below).

According to the researchers, the mechanism behind CoQ10's anti-migraine action may have to do with the mitochondria. They speculated that a decrease in mitochondrial energy reserve may cause migraines. CoQ10's ability to enhance mitochondrial function may be the mechanism behind its anti-migraine effect.

Reference: American Academy of Neurology 2004 Annual Meeting, San Francisco, April 28, 2004, Abstract S43.004.

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Coenzyme Q10 May Offer Migraine Headache Relief

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that Coenzyme Q10 can significantly reduce the number of migraine attacks in migraine headache sufferers.

In an open-label study published in 2002, researchers treated 32 patients suffering from episodic migraine with 150 mg of coenzyme Q10 a day for three months. The treatment period was preceded by a 1-month baseline phase, where the number of migraine headaches was measured prior to treatment.

CoenzymeQ10 significantly reduced the average number of days patients experienced migraines. At baseline, the subjects suffered from an average of 7.34 days with migraines per month. After treatment, the days with migraines fell to 2.95 days. More than 61% of the CoQ10-treated patients had a greater than 50% reduction in the number of days with migraine. In addition, mean migraine frequency fell after CoQ10-treatment from 4.85 attacks at baseline to 2.81 at the end of the study. CoenzymeQ10 did not cause any side effects.

The researchers decided to see whether CoenzymeQ10 was effective because CoQ10 is crucial to the proper functioning of the mitochondria. Other scientists have theorized that migraines arise due to mitochondrial dysfunction. Since coenzyme Q10 is widely studied for the treatment of mitochondrial disorders, the researchers hypothesized that it might be effective against migraines. Even so, because there are few agents that prevent migraines, particularly ones without side effects, the researchers were impressed. The lead study author emphasized that their success with CoQ10 indicates a need for future placebo-controlled trials.

Source: Rozen TD, et al. Cephalalgia. 2002;22:137-141.

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