Can Bacon Give You Migraines?
A new study indicates bacon could trigger headaches for migraine sufferers
Potentially disappointing news for bacon lovers who also suffer from migraines: your regular morning rasher may in some way be responsible for producing that throbbing sensation you feel in your cranium. It isn’t the fat, though, that may be causing this problem (score one for fat). Nitrates, which are used, among other things, as a preservative in processed meats, are the alleged culprit. A group of researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that migraineurs (those who get migraines) have more microbes in their mouths, with the ability to process nitrates, than those who don’t get migraines.
That may sound inconsequential, but what happens when nitrates meet these bacteria is they can be converted into nitrites, which can then be converted into nitric oxide in the blood stream. Nitric oxide—stay with me—is supposed to be good for your cardiovascular system, but, the study (published in mSystems) points out, a sizable portion of those who take drugs containing nitrates for heart and chest problems also get headaches. If you have a nitrate-heavy diet, the same could apply.
As a bacon fiend who occasionally suffers from migraines, I was bummed by the report, as I imagine many of the 38 million migraineurs in the United States would be, too, should they happen upon it. But the study doesn’t actually establish a causal link between nitrate consumption and migraines. It merely points out that there is a correlation between migraines and the presence of oral microbes that do funky things with nitrates. So, keep eating bacon, if you want. But when that migraine aura comes on, be aware that this nitrate-heavy breakfast food may be causing more problems than just clogging your arteries.