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Study debunks myth: caffeine does not cause migraines

US sleep researchers have debunked the myth of coffee-induced headaches. The researchers found no significant differences in test subjects with little, more or no coffee consumption.

Only a few studies have investigated the link between caffeine and migraines, wrote researchers led by Suzanne Bertisch from the Department of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston and her co-authors. Their study was published at the beginning of February in the journal "Headache".

As part of the study, they interviewed 101 adults with doctor-diagnosed episodic migraines and then observed them for six weeks. They recorded their state of health electronically twice a day. At the end of the observation period, complete data was available from 97 test subjects.

Similar number of headaches

The results clearly spoke against a connection between caffeine consumption and headache attacks. "The mean number of days per month with headache among the 20 participants without habitual caffeine consumption (7.1 days) was similar to that of the 65 participants with one to two servings of caffeinated beverages (7.4 days) and that of the 12 participants with three to four servings per day (5.9 days)," reads the summary of the publication.

The duration of the migraine episodes was also de facto the same in the three groups, at just under nine hours each. On a scale of 0 to 100, the intensity of the pain attacks was 43.8 among the caffeine abstainers, 43.1 among the people with one to two servings per day and 46.5 in the group with three to four cups of coffee or similar drinks in terms of caffeine.

"We found no correlation between the habitual consumption of caffeinated beverages and the frequency, duration or severity of headache symptoms," concluded the scientific study. The data did not support the recommendation that patients with migraines should avoid caffeine. The work was funded by the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, among others.

Women more frequently affected by migraines

Six to eight percent of men and more than twice as many women suffer from migraines, according to figures from the Charite University Hospital in Berlin. Despite relatively good treatment and prevention options, many sufferers are severely burdened by the pain attacks.

In Switzerland, people in higher mountain regions complain of headaches more often than those in the lowlands. Bern is Switzerland's migraine stronghold, as an analysis by health insurer Sanitas showed last year.

©Keystone/SDA

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