A high percentage of children, teens and young adults with migraines appear to have mild deficiencies in vitamin D, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and coenzyme Q10, a vitamin like substance found in every cell of the body that is used to produce energy for cell growth and maintenance.
Migraine affects 18% of women and 6% of men in the United States,2 and has an estimated worldwide prevalence of about 10%.3 For both men and women, the prevalence of migraine rises throughout early adult life and falls after midlife. In girls and women, the rate almost triples between age 10 and 30 years.
Dr. Hagler and colleagues at Cincinnati Children’s conducted the study among patients at the Cincinnati Children’s Headache Center. Their study drew from a database that included patients with migraines who, according to Headache Center practice, had baseline blood levels checked for vitamin D, riboflavin, coenzyme Q10 and folate, all of which were implicated in migraines, to some degree, by previous and sometimes conflicting studies. Many were put on preventive migraine medications and received vitamin supplementation, if levels were low. Because few received vitamins alone, the researchers were unable to determine vitamin effectiveness in preventing migraines.
They found that girls and young women were more likely than boys and young men to have coenzyme Q10 deficiencies at baseline. Boys and young men were more likely to have vitamin D deficiency. Patients with chronic migraines were more likely to have coenzyme Q10 and riboflavin deficiencies than those with episodic migraines.
There has been one well-designed randomized controlled trial evaluating the use of riboflavin as a migraine prophylactic agent. Daily use of 400 mg riboflavin for 3 months resulted in a 50% reduction in attacks in 59% of patients, as compared with 15% for placebo.
Another study evaluated the use of supplementation with coenzyme Q10 in 31 patients with migraine, using 150 mg daily for 3 months, 61% had at least 50% reduction in migraine days without significant adverse events. There is also another study that evaluated the use of this supplement in pediatric patients with frequent headaches, and found that supplementation of 1 to 3 mg/kg/d of CoQ10 in liquid gel capsules formulation resulted in an improvement in the levels of the enzyme, headache frequency and degree of headache disability.
Further studies are needed to elucidate whether vitamin supplementation is effective in migraine patients in general, and whether patients with mild deficiency are more likely to benefit from supplementation. Current data suggest that they can potentially have a beneficial role in the treatment and prevention of migraine episodes, with a low cost and with no major side effects.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. (2016, June 10). Many with migraines have vitamin deficiencies, says study: Researchers uncertain whether supplementation would help prevent migraines. ScienceDaily.
Sun-Edelstein C, Mauskop A. Foods and supplements in the management of migraine headaches. Clin J Pain. 2009 Jun;25(5):446-52. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31819a6f65. PMID: 19454881.