A study published Dec. 11 in the journal BMJ Open shows diets high in salty foods are a major culprit in headaches, which plague nearly half of all adults. The salt/headache connection may be independent of the well-established link between salt intake and high blood pressure, a common cause of headaches.

The study found that people who ate foods high in sodium (8 grams a day) had nearly one-third more headaches than people who ate foods low in sodium (about 4 grams a day). The difference persisted regardless of whether the volunteers ate a standard North American diet or one designed to lower blood pressure.

Study co-author Lawrence Appel, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research at Johns Hopkins, notes that many Americans consume much more sodium than any of the study participants did. People may avoid some headaches simply by reducing salt consumption, he says.

Appel also co-authored a major study to be published next week testing claims that low glycemic index foods can lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. To arrange an interview with him, or to learn more about the upcoming study on low glycemic index foods, which is under an embargo, contact Johns Hopkins Medicine media representative Heather Dewar at [email protected] or 410-502-9463.