Dietary zinc and risk of migraine


Dr Veena Aggarwal, Consultant Womens’ Health, CMD and Editor-in-Chief, IJCP Group & Medtalks Trustee, Dr KK’s Heart Care Foundation of India    24 January 2023

Persons who consume high amounts of zinc in their diet suffer from fewer migraines, suggests a study of more than 11,000 adults published in the journal Headache.1


For this study, Liu et al examined data from the 1994-2004 NHANES with the objective to assess the dietary intake of zinc amongst adults with severe headache and/or migraine compared with those who did not have migraine. After screening 31,126 participants, 11,088 were included in the final analysis. Pregnant women were omitted from the study group. The mean age of the selected study subjects was 46.5 years and nearly half of them were males. Based on the dietary consumption, the participants were segregated into quintiles (Q1 ≤5.9 mg/day, Q2 6.0-8.4 mg/day, Q3 8.5-11.2 mg/day, Q4 11.3-15.7 mg/day and Q5 ≥15.8 mg/day). Intake of zinc supplements was also considered for evaluation in 2607 patients.


A total of 2236 participants complained of severe headache or migraine in the 3 months preceding the trial. An inverse relationship was observed between migraine and dietary zinc intake after adjusting for potential confounders such as age, sex, race, level of education, smoking habit, diabetes, stroke, BMI. Patients in the highest quintile (Q5) of zinc intake (≥15.8 mg daily) reported lowest incidence of migraine with adjusted odds ratio of 0.70 compared to those in the lowest quintile (Q1) (≤5.9 mg daily). The aORs for participants were 0.73 in Q2, 0.71 in Q3 and 0.71 in Q4.


Participants who were taking zinc supplements with 19.3-32.5 mg daily intake of zinc were also at a low risk of migraine with OR ranging between 0.62-0.67.


By demonstrating an inverse association between dietary intake of zinc and migraine, this cross-sectional analysis highlights the influence of dietary factors on the risk of migraine.


Zinc is a trace mineral, meaning that it is required in very small “micro” amounts. Yet it performs some very vital functions in the body. Zinc is an important component of several enzymes that build protein and synthesize DNA. It helps repair tissues. Zinc is also important for sense of taste and smell. Zinc is crucial for a healthy immune system as it supports the growth and functioning of T lymphocytes, major players in adaptive immunity including cells involved in innate immunity.


The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for men is 11 mg; for women it is 8 mg. Pregnant women need 11 mg of zinc daily, while the RDA for lactating women is slightly higher at 12 mg. Animal foods such as meat, poultry, and seafood are rich sources of zinc. For vegetarians the sources are limited to lentils, chickpeas, seeds (pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds), whole grains, beans, spinach, mushrooms, almonds.


Zinc deficiency may manifest as anorexia, loss of smell/taste, delayed wound healing, diarrhea, hair loss, depressed mood, suppressed immunity. To this can be added migraine as shown in the present study.  



  1. Liu H, et al. Dietary zinc intake and migraine in adults: a cross-sectional analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2004. Headache. 2023 Jan 1. doi: 10.1111/head.14431.

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