Nutrition for Post-Traumatic Headache

  • End date
    Mar 31, 2022
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
Updated on 10 October 2021


The purpose of this multi-site study is to evaluate the efficacy of a high omega-3/low omega-6 dietary intervention (the H3-L6 Diet) vs. a Control Diet in reducing headache pain and improving function in soldiers, veterans and military healthcare beneficiaries with post-traumatic headache (PTH). In addition, the study will examine the effects of the diet interventions on anti-nociceptive and pro-nociceptive lipid mediators derived from omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.


Migraine-like PTH is an ideal patient population to test the effects of the H3-L6 intervention for several reasons. First, although PTH is considered a secondary headache syndrome, the fact that migraine-like PTH has a phenotype indistinguishable from primary migraine disorders and shares common pain-related comorbidities (e.g. anxiety, depression) suggests that shared biochemical mechanisms may underlie both conditions. Second, many PTH patients experience poor or incomplete therapeutic responses to available treatments, often while suffering from drug-related adverse effects. The prospect of improved headache outcomes with concurrent reduction in medication use (as seen in the Chronic Daily Headache Trial) may be particularly beneficial in PTH, since certain headache medications (e.g. opiates, muscle relaxants, sleep aids) have cognitive side effects, which may worsen residual cognitive impairment from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

While PTH is an important cause of disability after TBI, problems with memory, executive function, depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, post-traumatic stress, and other neurobehavioral disorders are also common after TBI and contribute to disability. The H3-L6 (High Omega-3 Low Omega-6) intervention increased circulating concentrations of several key bioactive mediators which could hypothetically also have favorable effects on these TBI-associated non-headache impairments associated with TBI combat injuries. Omega-3 fatty acids have been widely studied in pre-clinical models and human TBI and demonstrate promising evidence of both neuroprotective and neurorestorative efficacy.

Potential mechanisms include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-neurogenic effects. In our pilot study, the H3-L6 intervention significantly increased circulating levels of docosahexaenoic acid-eicosapentaenoic acid (DHA-EPA) , a potent stimulator of neurite growth and synaptogenesis in hippocampus and other central nervous system (CNS) tissues. Corresponding increases in the synaptamide biosynthesis in central nervous system tissues could hypothetically assist cognitive and functional neurorecovery associated with traumatic brain injury. Further, the reduction of proinflammatory metabolites of omega-6 fatty acids may provide additional benefits beyond what can be achieved through omega-3 supplementation alone.

Study Type: Interventional, Phase 2, double blind Study Design: Allocation: Randomized, parallel group Masking: Double Blind (Participant, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor) Primary Purpose: Treatment

Primary Outcome Measures:

Hypothesis and Objective: The investigators will obtain support for the following hypotheses through three specific aims:

Specific Aim 1: To compare the efficacy of the H3-L6 Diet to the Control Diet, in reducing headache pain and improving headache-related quality of life.

Hypothesis 1: Compared to the Control Diet, the H3-L6 Diet will produce significant improvement in:

(1a) the Headache Impact Test-a headache-specific quality of life measure-Primary Clinical Outcome);

(1b) mean total Headache Hours per day; and

(1c) mean Severe Headache Hours per day.

Secondary Outcomes Measures:

Specific Aim 2: To evaluate whether the H3-L6 Diet can increase circulating anti-nociceptive omega-3 metabolites, and reduce pro-nociceptive omega-6 metabolites, in patients with Posttraumatic Headaches.

Hypothesis 2: Compared to the Control Diet, the H3-L6 Diet will produce significant increases in anti-nociceptive omega-3 metabolites including 17-hydroxy DHA (Primary Biochemical Aim), and reductions in pro-nociceptive omega-6 metabolites.

Other Outcomes Measures Specific Aim 3: To explore the potential of the H3-L6 intervention for improving non-headache TBI outcomes.

Hypothesis 3: Compared to the Control Diet, the H3-L6 Diet will produce significant improvement in:

(3a) non-headache pain; (3b) depression/anxiety; (3c) symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder; (3d) cognitive function; (3e) sleep quality; and (3f) will significantly reduce the use of acute pain medications. Enrollment: Up to 300 total participants enrolled among the 3 military sites for 120 12-week diet completers

Condition Post-Traumatic Headache Chronic Without Intractable Headache, Post-Traumatic Headache Chronic Without Intractable Headache, Post-Traumatic Headache Chronic Without Intractable Headache
Treatment Diet/nutrition intervention
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03272399
SponsorUniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
Last Modified on10 October 2021


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