Nav: Home

1-2 caffeinated drinks not linked with higher risk of migraines; 3+ may trigger them

August 08, 2019

BOSTON - Afflicting more than one billion adults worldwide, migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world. In addition to severe headache, symptoms of migraine can include nausea, changes in mood, sensitivity to light and sound, as well as visual and auditory hallucinations. People who suffer from migraine report that weather patterns, sleep disturbances, hormonal changes, stress, medications and certain foods or beverages can bring on migraine attacks. However, few studies have evaluated the immediate effects of these suspected triggers.

In a study published today in the American Journal of Medicine, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) evaluated the role of caffeinated beverages as a potential trigger of migraine. Led by Elizabeth Mostofsky, ScD, an investigator in BIDMC's Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit and a member of the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH, researchers found that, among patients who experience episodic migraine, one to two servings of caffeinated beverages were not associated with headaches on that day, but three or more servings of caffeinated beverages may be associated with higher odds of migraine headache occurrence on that day or the following day.

"While some potential triggers - such as lack of sleep - may only increase migraine risk, the role of caffeine is particularly complex, because it may trigger an attack but also helps control symptoms," said Mostofsky. "Caffeine's impact depends both on dose and on frequency, but because there have been few prospective studies on the immediate risk of migraine headaches following caffeinated beverage intake, there is limited evidence to formulate dietary recommendations for people with migraines."

In their prospective cohort study, Mostofsky and colleagues - including Principal Investigator Suzanne M. Bertisch, MD, MPH, of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Harvard Medical School - 98 adults with frequent episodic migraine completed electronic diaries every morning and every evening for at least six weeks. Every day, participants reported the total servings of caffeinated coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks they consumed, as well as filled out twice daily headache reports detailing the onset, duration, intensity, and medications used for migraines since the previous diary entry. Participants also provided detailed information about other common migraine triggers, including medication use, alcoholic beverage intake, activity levels, depressive symptoms, psychological stress, sleep patterns and menstrual cycles.

To evaluate the link between caffeinated beverage intake and migraine headache on the same day or on the following day, Mostofsky, Bertisch and colleagues used a self-matched analysis, comparing an individual participant's incidence of migraines on days with caffeinated beverage intake to that same participant's incidence of migraines on days with no caffeinated beverage intake. This self-matching eliminated the potential for factors such as sex, age, and other individual demographic, behavioral and environmental factors to confound the data. The researchers further matched headache incidence by day of the week, eliminating weekend versus week day habits that may also impact migraine occurrence.

Self-matching also allowed for the variations in caffeine dose across different types of beverages and preparations.

"One serving of caffeine is typically defined as eight ounces or one cup of caffeinated coffee, six ounces of tea, a 12-ounce can of soda and a 2-ounce can of an energy drink," said Mostofsky. "Those servings contain anywhere from 25 to 150 milligrams of caffeine, so we cannot quantify the amount of caffeine that is associated with heightened risk of migraine. However, in this self-matched analysis over only six weeks, each participant's choice and preparation of caffeinated beverages should be fairly consistent."

Overall, the researchers saw no association between one to two servings of caffeinated beverages and the odds of headaches on the same day, but they did see higher odds of same-day headaches on days with three or more servings of caffeinated beverages. However, among people who rarely consumed caffeinated beverages, even one to two servings increased the odds of having a headache that day.

"Despite the high prevalence of migraine and often debilitating symptoms, effective migraine prevention remains elusive for many patients," said Bertisch. "This study was a novel opportunity to examine the short-term effects of daily caffeinated beverage intake on the risk of migraine headaches. Interestingly, despite some patients with episodic migraine thinking they need to avoid caffeine, we found that drinking one to two servings/day was not associated with higher risk of headache. More work is needed to confirm these findings, but it is an important first step."
-end-
In addition to Mostofsky and Bertisch, co-authors included, Murray A. Mittleman, MD, DrPH, and Wenyuan Li, ScD, of BIDMC; and Catherine Buettner, MD, of Mount Auburn Hospital.

This work was conducted with support from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders And Stroke (R21-NS091627), the American Sleep Medicine Foundation, Harvard Catalyst | The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center (National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health Award UL 1TR002541), and financial contributions from Harvard University and its affiliated academic healthcare centers.

Potential Conflicts of Interest: Dr. Bertisch reports receiving research support from Merck, Sharpe & Dohme, Lockheed Martin (DARPA primary funding source), ApniMed, and has served as a consultant for Verily. Dr. Buettner has received honorarium for consulting for Dr. Reddy Pharmaceutical. All other authors report no disclosures relevant to this manuscript.

About Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding.

BIDMC is part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a new health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals, more than 4,000 physicians and 35,000 employees in a shared mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Accessing Better Health
Essential health care is a right, not a privilege ... or is it? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can give everyone access to a healthier way of life, despite who you are or where you live. Guests include physician Raj Panjabi, former NYC health commissioner Mary Bassett, researcher Michael Hendryx, and neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab