The study - published in the European Journal of Neurology (2004;11:475-7)- investigated the effect of high-dose riboflavin on migraine frequency, duration, and intensity in 23 people aged 20 to 65.
Each participant received 400 mg of riboflavin per day for three months and kept a diary recording the number of migraine attacks, duration of each migraine, headache intensity and the use of pain relievers during a migraine.
Participants suffered significantly fewer migraines while taking riboflavin. The average number of headaches decreased from four per month prior to the study, to two per month during treatment with riboflavin. Participants also used significantly less pain-relieving medication while taking riboflavin than before the study. Headache duration also decreased during the treatment period, though headache intensity was unchanged. Only mild adverse reactions were reported, including diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and facial redness.
As there are no known interactions between riboflavin and pain relievers, riboflavin appears to be a safe and effective therapy for the prevention of migraine headaches, concluded the researchers.
About 12 - 15 per cent of people in the UK, (around nine million people), suffer from migraines, with twice as many women as men affected by the complaint.
The headaches are sometimes preceded by flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms or legs, or anxiety. Suffers generally experience a pounding sensation in one side of the head and many undergo nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and noise. The symptoms are often severe and debilitating, lasting anywhere between four and 72 hours.
Migraine pain is believed to originate from inflammation of the blood vessels in the brain. Theories about the exact cause of inflammation range from nervous system malfunctions to an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. Known migraine triggers include hormonal fluctuations, emotions, changes in weather, strong odours, and some foods. Alcohol, aged cheeses, monosodium glutamate (MSG), chocolate, and fermented foods are also frequently held responsible for initiating migraines.