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Tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks may increase migraine risk

Drinking three cups of tea or coffee a day can increase migraine risk, researchers have found.

In a study by The Migraine Trust, those who drank more than two caffeinated beverages over the course of 24 hours had higher odds of developing a headache.

Meanwhile, for those who rarely consumed caffeinated drinks, just one to two cups increased the chances of suffering a migraine.

Migraines are the third most common condition in the world and there are 190,000 attacks in the UK each day, according to The Migraine Trust.

Image: Caffeine may trigger attacks but also helps migraine symptoms

Coffee, tea, caffeinated soft drinks and energy drinks were all investigated in the study, with the research concentrating on the number of any caffeinated drinks consumed.


Two-thirds of the people affected by migraines drank one to two caffeinated drinks a day and all participants consumed at least one cup a day.

Migraines affect around 1.04 billion adults worldwide. It is not only a painful condition but results in significant direct and indirect costs such as medication and lost productively.

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The NHS says that one in five women and one in 15 men in the UK suffer from the condition. It is characterised by a moderate to severe headache with throbbing pain, sometimes associated with feeling or being sick and sensitivity to light or sound.

Causes of migraines include alcohol intake, stress, medications, hormonal changes such as menstruation and particular food and drinks. The study considered many of these factors alongside caffeine intake.

“While some potential triggers – such as lack of sleep – may only increase migraine risk, the role of caffeine is particularly complex, because it may trigger an attack but also helps control symptoms,” study author Dr Elizabeth Mostofsky said.

The study in The American Journal of Medicine is relatively small, with 98 adults affected by migraines included. The detailed information given by the participants may indicate that caffeine has an effect on migraine experiences.

Caffeine quantities in each drink varied between 25 to 150 milligrams depending on the drink and preparation methods.

The paper states: “We cannot assess whether the association varies by beverage type”, adding: “We cannot quantity the amount [of caffeine] associated with heightened risks”.

Further research is needed in order to give guidelines and understand the full impact of caffeine on migraine sufferers, it said.


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