Nitrate is used to preserve processed meats like bacon and sausages, and scientists the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine believe consumption of it may be causing migraines. As well as processed meats – which separately have been linked to bowel cancer – nitrate is found naturally in leafy vegetables.
Experts now believe that consumption of either of these food items – processed meats or leafy vegetables – may be linked to an increased chance of a migraine attack.
“There is this idea out there that certain foods trigger migraines — chocolate, wine and especially foods containing nitrates,” said the study’s author Antonio Gonzalez. “We thought that perhaps there are connections between what people are eating, their microbiomes and their experiences with migraines.”
Meat and migraines - a match not made in heaven
Researchers found that people who suffered from migraines tended to have levels of bacteria in their mouth and gut which process nitrate.
Nitrate can sometimes be converted into nitric oxide by the body which can aid one’s health by promoting blood flow and reducing blood pressure. However, it can also spark migraines.
Using public data made available by a citizen science project in the US, called American Gut Project, researchers Gonzalez and colleague Embriette Hyde analysed 172 oral samples of bacteria and 1,996 faecal samples.
“We know for a fact that nitrate-reducing bacteria are found in the oral cavity,” said Hyde, project manager for the American Gut Project and assistant project scientist in the Knight lab where the study was conducted.
However, Gonzalez, who published his findings in the mSystems medical journal, said the findings did not necessarily mean there was a direct correlation to consumption of nitrate-rich foods and migraines.