The best offense

Last June, in an e-Alert about migraine headaches (“Power to the Powerhouses” 6/28/04), I mentioned in passing that riboflavin has been shown to help prevent migraines.

Now I’ve come across a new study that confirms previous research with promising results and useful information for migraine sufferers.

Brains of Berlin

Riboflavin – also known as vitamin B-2 – is an “essential” vitamin; that is, the body doesn’t produce the vitamin on its own, and yet it’s indispensable to good health, so it must be provided in the diet. Riboflavin assists in the metabolism of energy by processing protein, fats and carbohydrates. Benefits of riboflavin intake include healthy vision and skin, and (as already mentioned) a possible preventive effect against migraines.

As reported in the European Journal of Neurology, researchers at the Humboldt University of Berlin recruited 23 people (aged 20 to 65) who experienced frequent migraine headaches. All of the subjects took 400 mg of riboflavin for six months. Questionnaires recorded the subjects’ rates of migraine frequency, duration, intensity and the use of analgesic drugs at the outset of the trial, after three months, and again at six months.

At the mid-point of the trial, the average frequency of migraines had been cut in half for the entire group. Not surprisingly, the rate of analgesic usage was nearly cut in half as well. These two measures stayed the same throughout the remainder of the trial, neither
improving nor worsening. Over the course of the trial, subjects reported no change in the duration or intensity of headaches that still occurred. The 400 mg dose of riboflavin used in the study is considered high, but none of the subjects reported any adverse reactions.

Foods that contain good amounts of riboflavin include leafy green vegetables, whole grains, meat, eggs, yogurt, cheese and milk. Alcohol consumption and oral contraceptives may help cause riboflavin deficiency.

Excellent enzyme

Riboflavin is not always efficiently absorbed by the digestive tract, so anyone who puts it to use for migraine prevention may also want to try other natural preventive agents such as magnesium (many migraine patients have been shown to have magnesium
deficiencies), and feverfew, an herbal anti-inflammatory. But the biggest preventive boost may come from coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is believed to help prevent migraines by promoting proper respiration on the cellular level.

In the June e-Alert I mentioned above, I told you about a Swiss study in which researchers enrolled 42 migraine patients to receive either 100 mg of CoQ10 three times each day, or a placebo. For one month all of the subjects received a placebo. Then, for the
next three months, 21 received CoQ10 daily, while 21 continued with the placebo. Subjects agreed to not use any other methods to prevent migraines during the study period.

The results were dramatic. Researchers found that migraine frequency, total days with migraine, and total days with nausea were all significantly reduced in the CoQ10 group, compared to placebo. Overall, the incidence of migraines was almost cut in half in the
CoQ10 group, while the reduction of migraines in the placebo group was less than 15 percent.

In another study, 32 migraine patients each received 150 mg per day of CoQ10 for three months. In the month before the study began, the group experienced an average of more than seven days of migraine each. But by the end of the study that monthly average had
dropped to just under three days. About 60 percent of the subjects reported that their incidence of migraines was less than half of what it had been before the study.

As with the riboflavin study, no adverse side effects were reported in either of the CoQ10 studies.

Serious business

As most people who suffer from migraines are probably aware, a migraine is not just a very bad headache. In fact, a migraine is just one symptom of a larger problem – a neurological and vascular disorder with additional symptoms, such as nausea, auras
(flashes of light or blurred vision), vomiting, numbness of limbs and speech impairment. And if migraines go untreated, they can sometimes lead to more serious conditions, including permanent loss of vision, strokes, aneurysms, coma and even death.

Those who get chronic migraines should discuss their condition with a doctor or a health care professional who can monitor their progress – especially if riboflavin, CoQ10 or any other preventive supplements are being taken.

and another thing

As long as we’re on the topic of CoQ10

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that vitamin E’s anti-inflammatory effects may be increased when a CoQ10 supplement is added.

Researchers at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in Texas used 21 baboons to test levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) – a reliable marker for heart disease risk associated with inflammation. After feeding the baboons a diet designed to increase
their CRP (more on that in a moment), researchers found that vitamin E alone reduced CRP by more than 50 percent, but when CoQ10 was added, CRP was reduced by an additional 20 percent.

What makes this result even more remarkable is the fact that the baboons didn’t even have elevated levels of CRP. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.

As many mainstream doctors will tell you, heart disease risk will rise when a diet contains lots of fats and cholesterol. Or that’s the mainstream mantra anyway. So the Texas researchers fed their baboons a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet for three months,
followed by a seven-week diet of high-fat and high-cholesterol. This was designed to crank up the CRP level in preparation for the CoQ10/vitamin E test.

But a funny thing happened. According to the study: “The serum C-reactive protein concentrations did not change.”

Huh! Imagine that!

I suppose the researchers were a little perplexed and probably disappointed that the CRP wasn’t elevated. But they went ahead with their study anyway.

Here’s my suggestion for the Texas team: Next time, feed your baboons fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains for three months, and then switch to a seven-week diet that’s heavy on poor nutrition and simple, refined carbohydrates – processed baked
goods, chips, soda pop, fast-food hamburgers, French fries, white bread, etc. – and then hang on to your hats while the CRP levels zoom upward!

Of course, the baboons might be too intelligent to eat food like that.

“High-Dose Riboflavin Treatment is Efficacious in Migraine Prophylaxis: An Open
Study in a Tertiary Care Centre” European Journal of Neurology, Vol. 11, No. 7, July
“Vitamin B May Prevent Migraines”, 9/10/04,
“A Randomized Controlled Trial of Coenzyme Q10 in Migraine Prophylaxis” Abstract
S43.004, American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting, 4/28/04,
“Open Label Trial of Coenzyme Q10 as a Migraine Preventive” Cephalalgia, Vol. 22,
No. 2, 3/22/02,
“Cosupplementation with Vitamin E and Coenzyme Q10 Reduces Circulating Markers of
Inflammation in Baboons” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 80, No. 3,
September 2004,
“CoQ10 Boosts Vitamin E’s Anti-Inflammatory Action” NutraIngredients, 9/8/04,