FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:
Changing the diet to include more long-chain omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) and less omega-6 fats was shown in an earlier clinical trial to be a successful way to reduce chronic daily headache pain, and associated psychological distress.
Here, the researchers examined blood biochemical data from that trial to investigate possible mechanisms behind these effects.
Results showed that reductions in both headache pain and psychological distress caused by the dietary changes were associated with changes in blood levels of endocannabinoids - substances made within the body from these long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
The endocannabinoids were only discovered in the 1990s, but these bioactive substances are involved in numerous aspects of brain and nerve signalling. In addition to their roles in modulating pain - for which this study provides yet more evidence - they are also involved in the regulation of appetite, temperature regulation, sleep, mood, perception and cognition. They also play critical roles in brain development and 'plasticity' (the remodelling of brain connections in response to experience).
The balance of different endocannabinoids produced depends on the balance of long chain omega-3 and omega-6 fats from which they are made. This study adds to the evidence that imbalances in these substances may contribute to pain and psychological distress - and helps to explain why these symptoms can be reduced by correcting the dietary deficiencies of omega-3 relative to omega-6 fats found in modern, western-type diets.
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