Corn and Migraine

Published: 03rd March 2009
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Corn has long been known as an allergen. Since 1979 when it made the top ten list in an extensive Lancet study, correlations have been made between corn and various allergic reactions - including migraine(1).

It seems that corn is a known allergen for about 17% of the reactions in the study, which ranks it fairly high - but there has been little research to determine just why corn can cause migraines. Some believe that the allergic reaction from corn is provoked by histamine; much like seasonal allergies to ragweed or other plant based sensitivities.

Others blame the sulfites present in corn related products such as corn syrup and corn starch, and still others claim it is either pesticides used on both corn and wheat crops, or the genetically engineered versions of grains that cause the problems.

As is often the case, formal case studies concentrating on one food allergen in particular are scarce, but personal testimonials abound. One lady remembered that as a child she had a positive scratch test result for corn, however her mother was told she was only allergic to corn pollen carried in the air. As an adult her migraines became more and more severe until she decided to cut corn out of her diet - whereupon her headaches ceased, returning only when she inadvertently ate corn. Even the corn syrup in a Jolly Rancher or a chocolate bar containing 'glucose syrup' (read corn syrup) would cause an intense migraine(2).

Another victim came to the same conclusion after years of suffering and eliminated corn from her diet as well. This got rid of her migraines as well as alleviating even more symptoms such as IBS. To spread the word about the extensive use of corn in American foods she started up a website, and firmly believes that many who suffer migraines should consider avoiding corn, and foods that contain it(3).

Many people who report experiencing corn headaches feel that it is the corn syrup and corn starch in many breads, crackers, drinks and sweets that trigger their migraines. These reports in conjunction with corn syrup's bad reputation for contributing to obesity in the US has caused the Corn Refiners' Association to even issue television ads touting the benefits and 'naturalness' of corn syrup(4).

So far, the jury is still out on the overall safety of corn syrup, but the collaborative evidence against corn is overwhelming - too many people have reported migraines connected with corn allergy, and all that is needed is a formal study to prove it.

Research by Grace Alexander


(1) Food, Allergies and Migraine. Grant ECG, Lancet, May 5, 1979;966-969. 37344

(2) The Corn Culprit


(4) Pro Corn Syrup Ad (US)


Joy Healey qualified as a nutritionist in 2000, at the prestigious Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London. To read more articles on migraine subscribe to the free mini-course at:

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