(This article is not focusing on ketogenic diet but on research on ketone supplements)

The interest for diets to treat migraine is a constant. Low histamine, rich in magnesium, gluten and lactose free…of course the variability of migraine forbids any «one size fits all» approach, but patient testimonials on each of those approach sometimes sound too good to be true.

Research on diets for migraine is difficult for the following reasons

  • It’s difficult to create a true «placebo»
  • Patients have difficulty maintaining diets on a long term
  • Baseline eating habits vary a lot from one person to the other (not everyone starts at the same point and people may have different ways of following the diet)
  • Clinical trials are costly and there are no rich companies willing to engage in difficult studies on diets that anyone can do anyway.

The latest diet to attract interest is the ketogenic diet, a diet low in sugars (carbohydrates) and rich in fats and some proteins. This forces the body to shift its metabolism and enter a ketogenic state. Then brain needs a lot of energy to works and prefers glucose, but will use ketones if necessary. Early studies have shown that ketones may stabilize neuronal activity and treat epilepsy. Since migraine is also a disorder of the chemical and electrical functions of the brain, by extension one could propose that ketosis may improve migraine.

Mitochondrial diseases are a group of metabolic problems in the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the powerhouses of our body (and our brains). These little structures reside inside the cells and are responsible to produce energy. This is a very complex process with many players. There are some scientific clues that migraine is associated with particularities in energy metabolism, including in the mitochondria.

The ketogenic diet may therefore improve migraine by its effect on the metabolism. There are reports of efficacy of the ketogenic diet for migraine, but no solid study yet. Also, on the practical side, this diet is not easy to practice and sustain. It may have risks for health if not carefully managed.

What if one could take «ketone supplements» and eat normally instead?

A team in Germany is now investigating this approach and will test beta-hydroxybutyrate for migraine. This team has already published preliminary data showing a decrease from 16 days to 8 days per month of headache but only on 5 patients.

This innovative approach is very interesting and may lead to a new dietary way of managing migraine. The most positive aspect is that the quality of this clinical trial will be following the standards of research on medications and will hopefully provide clear answers on the impact of these supplements.

So let’s wait until the results are out, and in the mean time, eat as healthy as possible!

Migraine Canada™


Gross EC, Sandor P, Fischer D. Preliminary data on exogenous ketone bodies in migraine prevention. Cephalalgia. International Headache Society. 2017;37(1S):96-97.

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