Chocolate and migraine: the history of an ambiguous association

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Giuseppe Lippi
Camilla Mattiuzzi
Gianfranco Cervellin

Keywords

Migraine, Headache, Chocolate, Cocoa

Abstract

Migraine is a highly prevalent condition and an important cause of disability. Although the pathogenesis of this condition is complex and multifaceted, several environmental factors have been associated with development and aggravation of headache attacks. Among the various foods that have been implicated in migraine, chocolate has been regarded as detrimental on the basis of old and mostly anecdotal evidence. Therefore, this article is aimed to provide an overview on the current scientific evidence about the relationship between chocolate and migraine. Taken together, the information gathered from epidemiological and provocative studies attests that the potential causal association between chocolate and migraine remains largely enigmatic. The analysis of epidemiological surveys reveals a highly heterogeneous picture, with frequency of migraine episodes attributable to chocolate ranging from 0 to 22.5%. Even in those studies reporting a more convincing association, the risk of migraine after chocolate ingestion was found to be 2- to 3-fold lower than that reported for exposure to other conventional triggers such as stress, fasting, lack of sleep and alcohol beverages. The results of the double-blind studies are instead unequivocal, and clearly demonstrate that the risk of developing a headache attack after ingestion of chocolate is as likely as administering placebo in patients with migraine. It can hence be concluded that the widespread belief that chocolate and cocoacontaining foods should be absolutely avoided by migraine patients lacks of a reliable scientific basis.
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