Does Alcohol Consumption Increase the Risk of Migraine Attack?

Of the total migraine sufferers, alcohol was deemed a risk factor for 64% of them.

Although alcohol has long been viewed as a potential migraine trigger, findings from a study presented at the 18th Congress of the International Headache Society (IHC 2017) found no association in the majority of study participants. 

With unclear study data regarding the role of alcohol as a migraine risk factor, researchers from Curelator, Inc. and Northwell Health aimed to statistically compare daily intake of alcohol and the incidence of migraine attacks. Registered users of the Curelator Headache digital platform (n=509) suffering from migraines answered questions about personal suspected risk factors and their importance. The rating scale ranged from 1 (low) to 10 (maximal). For a minimum of 90 days, participants input details about headaches and exposure to potential triggers of migraine attacks each day. 

Data on alcohol consumption was recorded was a “yes” or “no” as well as by alcohol type and units consumed daily. After the 90 days, researchers analyzed the factors and calculated each person’s association of alcohol consumption with migraine attacks. 

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Of the total migraine sufferers, alcohol was deemed a risk factor for 64% of them. Alcohol intake was significantly more common among individuals who suspected alcohol as a risk factor vs. those who did not suspect (91% vs. 41%; P<0.001). Data for 27% of users who did not consume alcohol and 30% of users who did consume alcohol were deemed inadequate for analysis due to factors such as avoidance of alcohol or too frequent consumption around migraine incidents. 

Among users who consumed alcohol, there was no association found between alcohol and migraine in those not suspecting vs. those suspecting alcohol as a trigger (89% vs. 75%, respectively). Alcohol was determined as a potential trigger for increased migraine incidence in 6% of unsuspecting individuals vs. 8% of suspecting individuals, and as a potential protector against migraine incidence in 4% and 17% of individuals, respectively. Study authors further reported no association was observed between the degree of suspicion of alcohol and the percentage of people in whom an association was seen. 

Regardless of whether participants suspected alcohol as a trigger or not, 78% of the total group showed no association between alcohol and migraine. The authors added, “Surprisingly, when an association was found it was more often found to be associated with risk reduction (potential protector) than risk increase (potential trigger).” In general, the findings from this analysis do not support the belief that alcohol is a major risk factor for migraine attacks, they concluded.

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