Migraine and Obesity: Blaming the Patient?

Health Professional

Question:

Teri, as you said in your new article about Migraine and obesity, all of the talk about Migraine and obesity is blaming the patient. So, why do you continue to write the articles? Dr. Watson, what’s your take on all this nonsense about Migraine and obesity? I’m really tired of these so-called researchers who like to blame us for our Migraines. Jasmine.

Answer:

Dear Jasmine;

From Teri:

As I said in the recent article, “It’s important, however, to realize that numbers and statistics blame nobody. Thus, the results and conclusions of this meta-analysis should be viewed as statistics that verify that obesity and, to a smaller extent, being underweight increase the risk of Migraine.” I’m quite particular about the sources for what I write. The source for this article was Neurology, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Neurology. I’ve known B. Lee Peterlin, D.O., the author interviewed and quoted in my article, for quite a few years now. I see her at American Headache Society conferences, and have come to respect and admire her work. She’s very dedicated to patients with Migraine and other headache disorders and to research to help us. I’m sure the same can be said of the other authors on this journal article. I’ve struggled with weight issues my entire life, and I can empathize with you. That said, we must put aside the visceral reactions we may have to the research that connects weight issues to the risk of Migraine and use the knowledge to reach for better health.

From Dr. Watson:

Nowhere in the referenced article nor the HealthCentral summary does it state that obesity causes Migraine, or that obesity is someone’s fault. However, the association has been clearly shown not be “nonsense,” and calling it “so-called research” is far more offensive than anything this research may be implying. We live in an environment where opinions and feelings are often made more important than facts. At least in the scientific world, this is dangerous and cannot be tolerated. We can discuss our opinions as to WHY obesity is a risk factor for Migraine, but that it is a risk factor is not up for debate.

Let’s consider why obesity and Migraine are connected. There probably isn’t a single answer. Some that quickly come to mind include:

  1. Obesity can affect estrogen levels.

  2. Diets that lead to obesity are sometimes higher in processed foods, which can also affect Migraine.

  3. Exercise is good for Migraine and bad for obesity.

  4. There could be genetic factors which predispose toward both.

This list could go on and on.

Lastly, I completely agree that “patient blaming” is a bad thing.  But there is a degree of “personal responsibility” for lifestyle choices that affect Migraine disease. The two ideas are not the same thing.

Thank you for your question,

Dave Watson and Teri Robert

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