Researchers report that measuring levels of certain fats in the bloodstream might one day help spot women at high risk for migraines.
“While more research is needed to confirm these initial findings, the possibility of discovering a new biomarker for migraine is exciting,” wrote study author Dr. B. Lee Peterlin, associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
In the study, the researchers assessed 52 women with episodic migraine (average of nearly six migraines a month) and 36 women who did not have the debilitating headaches. Blood samples from the women were checked for fats called ceramides, which help regulate energy and brain inflammation.
Women with episodic migraines had lower levels of ceramides than those who did not have headaches. Every standard deviation increase in ceramide levels was associated with about a 92 percent lower risk of migraine.
Conversely, the researchers found that two other types of fats were associated with a 2.5 times greater risk of migraine with every standard deviation increase in their levels.
The researchers also tested the blood of a random sample of 14 of the participants and, based on these blood fat levels, correctly identified which women had migraines and which women did not.
The findings were published online Sept. 9 in the journal Neurology.
In an editorial accompanying the study, Dr. Karl Ekbom, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, wrote, “This study is a very important contribution to our understanding of the underpinnings of migraine and may have wide-ranging effects in diagnosing and treating migraine if the results are replicated in further studies.”
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about migraine.