A new study conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway has found that caffeine seems to both cause and treat headaches; however, the scientists say there is no “obvious reason” for these results.
The study, published in the Journal of Headache and Pain, consisted of 50,483 people who participated in the Nord-Trøndelag Health Survey (HUNT) – a cross-sectional survey on a variety of health issues.
The analysis showed that people who consume high levels of caffeine are more likely to suffer from occasional headaches than those who consume lower amounts. However, low caffeine consumption is associated with a higher chance of chronic headaches (headaches for 14 days or more every month).
ScienceDaily explains the possible limitations of this study:
“The HUNT study is powerful because it is large-scale, population-based and cross-sectional, but when it comes to headaches, these characteristics make it difficult to establish cause-and-effect. For example, the frequency of non-migraine headache was found by researchers to be 18 per cent more likely in individuals with high caffeine consumption (500 mg per day or more) than among those with the lowest consumption (with mean levels at 125 mg per day).*
But does that mean that all that caffeine causes headaches – or that people who are more likely to suffer from headaches drink caffeinated beverages in search of relief? ‘Since the study is cross-sectional, it cannot be concluded that high caffeine consumption causes infrequent headache,’ the researchers write.”
Even so, the researchers advised those who experience occasional headaches to cut back on caffeine. They also suggested that those who suffer from chronic headaches might find relief by drinking caffeine.
Wait a minute. If you cut back, doesn’t that increase your chance for chronic headaches? This seems like a very vicious circle…
[*Editorial note, there is considerable variation in the range of caffeine in coffee drinks, ranging from 25mg to 214mg in one study of 97 espresso drinks in Australia. A single Starbucks espresso contains 75mg and a 12oz brewed coffee contains 260mg, according to Energy Fiend, while a Diet Coke contains 47mg, according to the Mayo Clinic.]