Effectiveness of ketogenic diet in treatment of patients with refractory chronic migraine

Neurol Sci. 2021 Sep;42(9):3865-3870. doi: 10.1007/s10072-021-05078-5. Epub 2021 Feb 1.


Background and purpose: Ketogenic diet (KD) is based on restriction of carbohydrate intake. Metabolism is forced to obtain energy starting from β-oxidation of fatty acids which, turned into ketone bodies, can also be used by central nervous system (CNS). KD use in treatment of chronic migraine has recently been considered. We set out to verify modification of symptoms in patients with refractory chronic migraine in response to KD.

Methods: Fifty patients were enrolled of which 38 completed the procedures the study and 23 were considered in the statistics. All of the patients considered in our study were affected by medication overuse headache (MOH). They were on a KD for 3 months. The following parameters have been checked at t = 0 and every 30 days for 6 months: migraine episode length (n. hours/day), frequency (n. days/month), level of pain of every episode measured on a scale from 1 to 3 (1 = mild; 2 = moderate; 3 = severe), and n. analgesic drugs taken/month.

Results: Days with symptoms decreased from 30 (median value) to 7.5 with p < 0.0001. The duration of the migraine episodes decreased from 24 h (median value) to 5.5 h with p < 0.0016. The patients' pain level, initially at maximum value for 83% of the participants, improved for 55% of them (p < 0.0024). The number of drugs taken in a month decreased from 30 doses (median value) to 6 doses.

Conclusions: It can be stated that a 3-month KD resulted in a reduction of painful symptoms of drug refractory chronic migraine. This result may suggest an improvement in quality of life of the patients, even without a tabulated data collection.

Keywords: Chronic migraine; Controlled ketosis; Drug resistance; Ketogenic diet; Meal replacements; Neurological diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics
  • Diet, Ketogenic*
  • Headache Disorders, Secondary*
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics