Posts tagged with "NIH"

Study: Migraine-fighting diet offers ‘remarkable’ ability to reduce frequency, severity of headaches

July 13, 2021

Foods can trigger migraines, but certain dietary changes can reduce the frequency and severity of these debilitating headaches, a new study has found.

In fact, the Today show reports, people who ate a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids—specially while also reducing their intake of omega-6 fats—say they have suffered from shorter and less severe headaches, compared with those who ate a typical American diet. The reductions in pain and frequency were large and “robust,” researchers reported this month in The BMJ, a weekly peer-reviewed medical trade journal, published by the trade union the British Medical Association (BMA).

The findings offer hope for the 1 billion people worldwide—including 12% of Americans —who suffer from migraines.

“The reduction in headache days per month that we saw was impressive. It was similar to what we see with some medications that are being used as migraine preventatives and that’s very exciting,” Daisy Zamora, study co-author, researcher at National Institute on Aging and assistant psychiatry professor at the UNC School of Medicine, told Today.

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are types of healthy fat humans must get from food. But they are eaten in a way that is out of balance with the rest of the average U.S. diet.

Americans now eat at least twice the amount of omega-6s that our ancestors ate, Zamora said. Linoleic acid—the predominant omega-6 in the Western diet—is found in vegetable oils, including corn, safflower and soybean oils, so it’s abundant in pastries, crackers, snacks and other processed foods.

The molecules made when the body digests omega-6 fats are linked to pain processes and are known to trigger pain, Zamora noted.

Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, have anti-inflammatory properties. The best sources include cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. Plant-based sources include walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds.

For the study, researchers enrolled 182 people who suffered from migraines five to 20 days per month. Two-thirds of the participants met the criteria of having chronic migraines.

They were then randomly assigned to follow one of three diets for 16 weeks:

  • High omega-3 diet: This plan included lots of fatty fish — salmon and tuna every day — raising the intake of certain omega-3 fats (known as EPA and DHA) to 1.5 grams a day. The average American eats a fraction of that amount,according to the National Institutes of Health.
  • High omega-3 + low omega-6 diet: This plan was similar to the first plan, but this diet also concurrently reduced omega-6 intake to below 25% of that on the typical U.S. diet. People in this group cooked with macadamia nut oil, olive oil, coconut oil, or butter instead of the typical vegetable oils and ate snacks low in linoleic acid.
  • Average U.S. diet: This was the control eating regimen. It contained the typical levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids eaten by the majority of Americans.

Each participant kept a diary to monitor their migraines, as well as to record the frequency and intensity of their headaches and how they impacted their life.

At the start of the study, participants averaged about 16 headache days per month and almost five-and-a-half headache hours per day, despite each taking several medications to combat the pain.

After four months of the eating regimens, the high omega-3 + low omega-6 diet produced between 30% and 40% reductions in total headache hours per day, severe headache hours per day and overall headache days per month compared to the control groupthe NIH said.

Just boosting omega-3 fats without reducing omega-6s also showed benefits, but not as strong as making both those changes.

In an accompanying editorial to the study, sub-titled “At last, grounds for optimism among those seeking a dietary option,” Dr. Rebecca Burch, a headache medicine specialist and assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, called the findings “remarkable.”

“These results support recommending a high omega-3 diet to patients in clinical practice,” Burch wrote.

“(They) take us one step closer to a goal long sought by headache patients and those who care for them: a migraine diet backed up by robust clinical trial results.”

Research contact: @TODAYshow

Merck’s little brown pill could transform the fight against COVID—and other viruses

March 26, 2021

The story of what might become the next major breakthrough in COVID-19 treatment starts on a hotel hallway floor in January 2020—months before you were worried about the virus; weeks before you likely knew it existed, reports Bloomberg.

A scientist and a business executive were at a health-care conference in San Francisco, hatching a plan to get a promising drug out of academia and into research trials for regulatory approval. George Painter, president of the Emory Institute for Drug Development, and Wendy Holman, CEO of Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, had met at the Handlery Union Square Hotel to discuss a compound Painter had started developing with funding from the National Institutes of Health.

They got so enthusiastic about the possibilities that their meeting ran long—and a group of lawyers kicked them out of their room. So they continued on the hall floor, hours after they had started.

Painter and Holman weren’t talking about targeting COVID at the time. The disease and the coronavirus that causes it, SARS-CoV-2, weren’t major concerns at the J.P. Morgan-run conference, where handshakes and cocktail parties with hundreds of guests were still the norm. Rather, Painter was hoping his drug, molnupiravir, could get more funding to speed up flu studies. Holman was eager to see if it worked on Ebola. That’s the thing about molnupiravir: Many scientists think it could be a broad-spectrum antiviral, effective against a range of threats.

A few days later, Holman arrived in Atlanta to see the labs at Emory and pore through the early data. As she and Painter hashed out the terms of a deal in which Ridgeback would buy the drug and start studying its safety and efficacy in people, COVID was seeping into the public consciousness. By the time Ridgeback announced its acquisition of molnupiravir, on March 19, the world had shut down, and it was clear which threat the drug needed to be tested on right away. Clinical trials for the pill kicked off in April. The next month, Merck & Co., which has a deep history of public-health development work, including on HIV and Ebola, struck a deal to buy molnupiravir from Ridgeback and start the types of large-scale trials that could get it authorized by regulators. Those began in the fall.

Even as vaccines are rolling out worldwide, the coronavirus and its mutations still pose a major health threat, Bloomberg notes: Not everyone who is eligible for a shot will agree to get one. The hundreds of thousands of people who continue to contract COVID each day have few treatment options.

There’s no simple, inexpensive pill that can prevent those at the earliest stages of infection from later needing to be hospitalized. The monoclonal antibody therapies that doctors now have available for those most at risk of getting severely ill need to be administered by infusions at specialized medical centers. And for those who do become hospitalized, the antiviral remdesivir, from Gilead Sciences , speeds recovery, but hasn’t been shown to reduce deaths.

Drugmakers see an opportunity to add to the arsenal of potential therapies. There are 246 antivirals in development, according to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, an industry trade group. And companies as big as Pfizer and as little-known as Veru  are testing them in pill form.

Bloomberg reports, Merck’s molnupiravir is among the furthest along. Its developers hope the pills can be prescribed widely to anyone who gets sick. Think Tamiflu for COVID.

The hurdle, beyond ensuring the drug works, is making sure it’s safe. Developers of antivirals have been dealing with the thorny issues they pose for decades. Should Merck succeed in demonstrating that molnupiravir is effective and free of serious side effects, it could be a boon to the company, and to society, for many years to come.

If the drug proves safe and effective, Merck says it’s ready to go, with the capacity to make as many as 100 million molnupiravir pills—enough to treat 10 million people—by the end of the year. Down the road, the drug could even be an asset beyond the fight against COVID.

Research contact: @Bloomberg