Diabetes Protects Against Migraines

Researchers are grappling with findings that people living with diabetes are less likely to have migraines, and vice versa. While the data has been made public about populations in several regions for quite some time now, for the first time a series of systematic studies and reviews conclude that these findings are not just a fluke. An entire region in Norway was sent a questionnaire. The 1,499 people who self reported to be living with any form of diabetes were found to have a significantly lower rate of migraines than those reporting to be non-diabetics.

There was no positive or negative correlation between non-migraine headaches and diabetes mellitus, nor was there any skewed correlation with age. Very few in this population were living with both migraines and diabetes mellitus.

There is still no hard evidence pointing towards why or how the two diseases are inversely correlated with one another. Diabetes mellitus is a disease which affects glucose absorption of the body, while migraines are known to be caused by vascular perturbations in the brain. However, it is thought that the blood vessel properties change in diabetes patients, thus making it possible to somehow protect the brain against these vessel-induced headaches. More research needs to be done to support this theory.

This is not the first time an inverse relationship between two seemingly unrelated diseases has been demonstrated. Canadian neurologist Patrick McGeer has shown in 1991 that there was a 5 times less likelihood of someone living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to get Alzheimer’s Disease. Here, autoimmune RA clearly plays some unknown protective role against later on developing a senile neuroinflammatory disorder.

While these findings at first glance seem peculiar, they may shed light into our hazy understanding of these diseases. Furthermore, knowing exactly how one disease protects against another may prompt researchers to mimic this effect through a therapeutic treatment.


H. Aamodt, L. J. Stovner, K. Midthjell, K. Hagen, J.-A. Zwart (2007) Headache prevalence related to diabetes mellitus. The Head-HUNT Study. European Journal of Neurology 14 (7), 738–744.

Jenkinson ML, Bliss MR, Brain AT, Scott DL. (1989) Rheumatoid arthritis and senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. Br J Rheumatol 8:86-8.

McGeer PL, McGeer E, Rogers J, Sibley J. (1990) Anti-inflammatory drugs and Alzheimer’s disease. Lancet 335:1037.

Beard CM, Kokman E, Kurland LT. (1991) Rheumatoid arthritis and susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease. Lancet 37:1426.

Karen Vieira, MBA, PhD

Karen Vieira, MBA, PhD, has written about medical research, medical procedures, food ingredients, herbal remedies, pharmaceutical drugs, condo construction, real estate and computer consulting to mention a few.
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