Caffeine is popularly used as a headache treatment, but a new study has found that consuming too much caffeine could be detrimental to migraine sufferers. The study, led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health epidemiology instructor Elizabeth Mostofsky, evaluated caffeine and its effect on migraine-prone individuals. The researchers concluded that drinking too much caffeine without a tolerance could trigger a severe headache. The study was published in the American Journal of Medicine.
Millions of people in the U.S. are prone to migraines. The most well-known symptom of migraine is recurrent headaches that vary in intensity from moderate to severe. Other symptoms may include nausea and an increased sensitivity to light and sound. Many triggers for migraines have been found in previous studies, including hormonal changes, stress, and exercise, as well as some foods and drinks.
The 98 participants involved in the new study were primarily white, female, and had an average headache starting age of around 16-years-old. Each participant was asked to fill out electronic diaries for six weeks to record their intake of caffeinated beverages like tea, coffee, soda, and energy drinks, detailing their servings in the morning and in the night. They were also asked to report whether or not they experienced headaches, the intensity of these headaches, their onset and duration, and what medication the participant used. Participants also revealed whether other common triggers for migraines were in play.
Researchers used a self-matched analysis to evaluate the link between caffeinated beverage intake and migraine headache on the same day or on the following day. The team found that migraine sufferers were more likely to develop a headache if they typically only consumed one or two caffeinated drinks a day, but then consumed three or more caffeinated drinks in a day. The team matched headache incidence by days of the week, eliminating weekend versus week day habits that could impact migraine occurrence.
Mostofsky said, “One serving of caffeine is typically defined as eight ounces or one cup of caffeinated coffee, six ounces of tea, a 12-ounce can of soda and a 2-ounce can of an energy drink. Those servings contain anywhere from 25 to 150 milligrams of caffeine, so we cannot quantify the amount of caffeine that is associated with heightened risk of migraine. However, in this self-matched analysis over only six weeks, each participant’s choice and preparation of caffeinated beverages should be fairly consistent.”