Study: Drinking 3 cups of coffee, tea daily can trigger migraines

BOSTON — For devoted java lovers, just one cup of joe in the morning may not be enough to knock all the cobwebs from their eyes. This often leads to multiple trips to the coffee pot. If this sounds like your typical A.M. routine, you may be putting yourself at greater risk of suffering episodic migraines, according to a new study.

According to researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard University, three or more servings of a caffeinated beverage in one day is associated with the development of a headache on the same or following day among patients who suffer from episodic migraines. These findings were consistent even after researchers accounted for other outside factors such as daily alcohol consumption, stress levels, sleep habits, physical fitness, and menstruation among females. However, some variations in the results were observed among participants using oral contraceptives.

“Based on our study, drinking one or two caffeinated beverages in a day does not appear to be linked to developing a migraine headache, however, three or more servings may be associated with a higher odds of developing a headache,” comments lead investigator Dr. Elizabeth Mostofsky in a release.

Migraines, or super intense debilitating headaches, affect roughly 1.04 billion people each year all over the world. In fact, migraines are the most common global pain condition causing lost productivity and subsequent monetary costs. There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that caffeine can both bring about and effectively subdue migraines, but there really isn’t all that much actual scientific research on the matter. More specifically, researchers set out to determine how daily caffeine consumption influences the onset and frequency of migraines, after accounting for other contributing factors.

It’s worth mentioning that migraines are believed to be brought on by a number of possible triggers, such as changes in the weather, sleep pattern disruptions, and changes in diet.

Meanwhile, an astounding 87% of Americans consume caffeine on a daily basis, be it from coffee, tea, or energy drinks, for an average intake of 193 mg per day. The research team note that unlike other possible triggers, such as the weather or sleep patterns, caffeine’s relationship with migraines is a complicated one, due to its ability to both trigger and subdue headaches, depending on the dose and frequency.

For the study, data on 98 adults who suffer from episodic migraines was analyzed. Each participant filled out an online diary twice each day for a total of six weeks, reporting on their daily caffeine consumption, additional lifestyle factors, and the timing and intensity of any migraines they may experience. Researchers then compared each participant’s frequency of migraines on days they drank caffeinated beverages with days they did not consume any caffeine.

Before the six week experimental period, baseline data initially indicated that participants experienced an average of five migraines per month, with 66% of participants usually consuming 1-2 caffeinated drinks per day and 12% drinking three or more.

During the six week period, participants experienced an average of 8.4 headaches, and drank an average of 7.9 servings of caffeine per week.

“To date, there have been few prospective studies on the immediate risk of migraine headaches with daily changes in caffeinated beverage intake. Our study was unique in that we captured detailed daily information on caffeine, headache, and other factors of interest for six weeks,” comments Dr. Suzanne M. Bertisch, principal investigator of the study.

The overall results of the study indicate that caffeine only appears to increase the risk of a migraine after three or more servings in one day. The study’s authors say that additional research is needed in order to examine the relationship between caffeine consumption, subsequent migraine symptom onset, and how other outside risk factors like sleep and anxiety play into that relationship.

The study is published in the American Journal of Medicine.

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