Low Vitamin D Linked To Increased Risk of Chronic Headache

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:


Dr. Jyrki Virtanen

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Formation of vitamin D in the skin with UVB light from the sun is a main source of vitamin D during summer months, but in the winter months the UVB light is too weak for vitamin D production. Headache prevalence has been suggested to be related to increasing latitude (less UVB light throughout the year) and possibly to be less prevalent during summer (more UVB light), which suggests a possible role for vitamin D exposure.

Some previous small studies have suggested that low serum vitamin D levels might be associated with more frequent headache or migraine. Our study included 2601 men from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD) from eastern Finland, aged 42-60 years in 1984-1989, which makes it one of the largest studies so far regarding vitamin D and headache.

In our study chronic headache (occurring weakly or daily) was reported by 250 men, and men reporting chronic headache had lower serum vitamin D levels than others.

When we divided the study population into four groups based on their serum vitamin D levels, the group with the lowest levels had over a twofold risk of chronic headache in comparison to the group with the highest levels. Chronic headache was also more frequently reported by men who were examined outside the summer months of June through September.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Because this was an observational study, we can’t say that low serum vitamin D was the cause for the frequent headaches. For example, those who suffer from frequent headaches may be less likely to spend time outdoors and would thus be less exposed to the UVB light.

Also, the higher risk of frequent headaches was observed only among those in the lowest serum vitamin D category, so it is possible that only quite low vitamin D levels have an impact on headaches.

However, outside the summer season, people should make sure that they get sufficient vitamin D from food or from vitamin D supplements to prevent the vitamin D levels from dropping too low during the winter.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Because also other observational studies have found similar associations between vitamin D and risk of headache, the next step would be to test in a clinical trial whether use of vitamin D supplements could prevent headaches. There are several large vitamin D trials ongoing around the world that are investigating the effect of vitamin D supplements on the risk of chronic diseases, and chronic headache and other pain conditions are one of the topics of interest.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: No disclosures.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D is associated with higher risk of frequent headache in middle-aged and older men
Jyrki K. Virtanen, Rashid Giniatullin, Pekka Mäntyselkä, Sari Voutilainen, Tarja Nurmi, Jaakko Mursu, Jussi Kauhanen & Tomi-Pekka Tuomainen
Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 39697 (2017)

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Last Updated on January 9, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD