Key Takeaways

  • Dietary thiamine, or vitamin B1, is associated with a lower risk of migraine, according to a new study.
  • Typically, vitamin B2—instead of vitamin B1—is used to prevent migraines.
  • More research is needed to confirm the effects of vitamin B1 on severe headaches and migraines.

About 14% of the global population experience migraines, and women are twice as likely as men to have migraines, according to a recent analysis.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) might be able to reduce the frequency of severe headaches and migraines, especially in women, according to a new study.

For this study, researchers used data from a national survey that involved 13,439 participants to examine the association between headache prevalence and vitamins B1 and B2. They found that vitamin B1—rather than B2—was associated with a 7% reduced risk of migraines.

The results add to the growing body of evidence that dietary patterns can affect migraine outcomes. Previous studies have found that vitamin D, omega 3s, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) might lower the chance of migraines.

Vitamin B2 supplements are typically used to prevent migraine, instead of vitamin B1, according to Richard B. Lipton, MD, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who was not involved with the study. Surprisingly, the new study didn’t find any significant association between vitamin B2 intake and migraines.

What Do We Know About B1 and Migraines?

This new study was the first large-scale research on the impact of dietary B1 on migraine prevalence in the U.S. population.

A 2016 case study suggested that migraine-induced vomiting can lead to a deficiency in thiamine, or vitamin B1, and cause further headaches, According to the report, vitamin B1 supplements could be a potential treatment for this migraine cycle.

“Some symptoms of thiamine deficiency overlap with those of migraine and include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting fatigue, irritability, tingling, and numbness,” Lipton said.

Scientists are still learning how vitamin B1 fits into migraine management and it’s too early to recommend this vitamin for patients based on the limited evidence.

“We need other work to tell us whether the dietary changes precede migraine, whether migraine is influencing what people eat, or both,” said Margaret Slavin, PhD, RD, an associate professor in the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University.

For now, people with migraines can pay more attention to the vitamin B1 content in their diet, Lipton suggested. However, thiamine deficiency is uncommon because vitamin B1 is present in many foods, including pork, fish, yogurt, and whole grains.

Some studies have suggested avoiding certain trigger foods, like alcohol or caffeine, to prevent a migraine attack, but there’s currently no standard dietary intervention for migraines.

The ketogenic diet has been studied for its potential in treating or preventing migraine, but some researchers found that it’s hard for migraine patients to take on the keto diet because of its restrictive nature.

Although more research needs to be done on the role of vitamin B1 in migraine prevention, Slavin said she’s excited to see studies moving toward what foods should be included to prevent migraine, rather than focusing on removing trigger foods.

What This Means For You

A new observational study found a connection between vitamin B1 intake and a reduced frequency of migraine, especially in women. More research has to be conducted before scientists can confirm the benefits of vitamin B1 in reducing severe headaches and migraines.

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