A new study has revealed that drinking too much coffee or other caffeinated drinks may be a trigger for migraines among people prone to these severe headaches.
The study researchers found that, among people with periodic migraine headaches, consuming at least three caffeinated drinks a day was tied to a higher likelihood of experiencing a migraine on that day or the following day. However, consuming only one or two caffeinated drinks a day was generally not associated with migraines, the study found.
Although many people anecdotally report that caffeine tends to trigger their migraines, few rigorous studies have examined this link.
Indeed, the new study, published 8 August in The American Journal of Medicine, is one of the first to examine whether daily changes in caffeine intake are tied to the onset of migraines.
“Interestingly, despite some patients with episodic migraine thinking they need to avoid caffeine, we found that drinking one to two servings [per] day was not associated with higher risk of headache,” study senior author Dr. Suzanne Bertisch, said in a statement.
Still, more research is needed to confirm the findings; “but it is an important first step,” Bertisch said.
Bertisch is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a clinical investigator in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
The role of caffeine in triggering migraine headaches may be particularly complex, the authors said, because its impact depends on how much people consume and how often. Caffeine may trigger an attack, but it could also have a pain-relieving effect, they said.
In the new study, the researchers analyzed information from nearly 100 adults who were diagnosed with episodic migraines, which means they experienced migraine headaches at least twice a month, but no more than 15 times a month. (People with 15 or more migraine headaches per month have a condition called “chronic migraine.”)
Participants filled out an online survey twice a day for six weeks to record their caffeine intake — including the number of servings of coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks they consumed — and whether they experienced a migraine headache that day.
On average, participants reported experiencing about eight migraines during the six-week study period. All of the participants reported consuming caffeine at least once during the study period, and on average, they consumed about eight servings per week.