Islamabad - A new study concludes that being overweight or underweight may increase your risk of migraines. Some headache sufferers and a dietician weigh in on the topic. Anyone who has ever experienced debilitating migraines has likely spent a lot of time talking to doctors to figure out the root cause of the pain.

This research is still new, and B Lee Peterlin, DO, director of headache research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a study co-author, was quick to point out that.

“More research is needed to determine whether efforts to help people lose or gain weight could lower their risk for migraine,” Peterlin said in a press statement.

However, she noted, it’s important for people to know about the research.

“As obesity and being underweight are potentially modifiable risk factors for migraine, awareness of these risk factors is vital for both people with migraines and doctors,” she said. “The main takeaway for me is that this is just another reason to make your health a priority by engaging in behaviours that will help you to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, especially if you suffer from migraines,” she said.

“I would have more of an inclination to say what we are seeing here is a correlation,” she added, “but I’m with the authors — more research is needed to determine if there is a true correlation and to figure out what might be driving that.”

Willetts said she is encouraged that the meta-analysis is moving the knowledge forward and setting up future researchers to come in and design studies to better evaluate the mechanisms driving this association. “I think it would be interesting to see research studies designed to measure actual body fat via a DEXA scan versus relying on self-reported height and weight data to better categorize research participants and remove some limitations,” she noted.

“Do your best to identify what triggers your migraines,” said Willetts, “then modify your behaviour and environment as best you can and find coping strategies to reduce the number and severity of your migraines.” She advises people who have migraines to “execute strategic daily practices to achieve your body composition goal.”

“Focus on incorporating one new healthy daily practice into your routine at a time,” Willetts said. “As your confidence increases, build another practice into your routine, so on and so forth.”

Willetts added that if you are a bit overwhelmed about how to attack the problem, you should seek the help of a registered dietician.

Meanwhile, a new study suggests that a lack of the key barrier protein filaggrin alone may be responsible for changes in skin proteins and pathways that make people susceptible to eczema. It builds on previous work that shows a lack of the protein is strongly tied to the development of eczema.

Lead investigator Nick Reynolds, a professor of dermatology at Newcastle University who also works as a skin and eczema specialist in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, says that their discovery “reinforces the importance of filaggrin deficiency leading to problems with the barrier function in the skin and predisposing someone to eczema.”

He and his colleagues also believe that the study could lead to the development of drugs that target the underlying causes of eczema rather than just alleviate the symptoms. Eczema is a condition that is usually characterised by dry, itchy, cracked, and rough skin that mainly erupts on the hands, feet, and face, as well as behind the knees and inside the elbows.

The exact causes of eczema are unknown. However, research reveals that it is likely to arise from a combination of genetic and environmental factors and probably involves dysfunction of both the skin barrier and the immune system. People with eczema may also develop asthma and hay fever.

In their study report, the researchers explain that filaggrin plays a key role in maintaining the barrier that protects the skin and that previous research has already established that a lack of the protein strongly predisposes people to eczema.

However, exactly what happens at the molecular level to link filaggrin deficiency to the development of eczema “remains incompletely understood,” they note

Using the model, the researchers were able to map the proteins and signalling pathways that lie “downstream” of filaggrin, and thus observe how the absence of the protein altered them.

They identified a number of signalling mechanisms that regulate inflammation, cell structure, stress response, and the function of the skin barrier.

The mapping of these pathways in the model appears to match that seen in people with eczema.

For example, the skin of people with active eczema has high levels of a protein coded by the gene KLK7. The team was able to show - from the model - that up-regulation of KLK7 was one of the molecular consequences of filaggrin loss.

“This type of research allows scientists to develop treatments that target the actual root cause of the disease, rather than just managing its symptoms. Given the level of suffering eczema causes, this is a pivotal piece of research.”