Study shows high-fat diets may contribute to chronic pain

Study shows high-fat diets may contribute to chronic pain

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The study found that a high-fat diet can cause painful responses to non-painful stimuli, an effect seen in obesity and diabetes. Vince Brophy/Getty Images
  • High-fat diets are popular in developed countries like the United States, but they can contribute to health problems like inflammation.
  • Scientists are still working to understand the relationship between a high-fat diet, inflammation, and chronic pain.
  • A recent study found that subjects who ate a high-fat diet experienced painful responses to non-painful stimuli, an effect similar to that seen in people with obesity or type 2 diabetes.

Diet is a vital component of health. Scientists are constantly uncovering new data about how diet affects the body. One area of ​​interest is how high-fat diets contribute to pain and inflammatory responses.

A recent study published in scientific reports investigated how high-fat diets induced painful responses to non-painful stimuli in mice.

The study results suggest that high-fat diets could induce painful responses to non-painful stimuli, an effect similar to that seen in individuals with obesity or type 2 diabetes.

The findings raise caution about high-fat diets and how they may contribute to chronic pain.

The human diet requires min some fat to ensure optimal functioning of the body.

Lipids allow the body to store energy and help with protection and cell structure. However, too much fat can lead to potential problems. For example, consuming excess saturated fat may increase the risk of heart disease.

While dietary recommendations generally focus on healthier food choices, many people still consume high levels of saturated fat and follow trends in high-fat diets, particularly in the United States.

Scientists are still working to understand the full impact of high-fat diets and how these diets may contribute to the body’s response to pain.

Laura Simmons, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist with RET Specialists in Physical Therapy and Health Care, WA, who was not involved in the study, noted Medical News Today:

“We already know that high-fat diets can be inflammatory to our systems due to an increase in inflammatory markers, an increase in plaque formation in the arteries, and fat deposition if a high-fat diet contributes to a caloric surplus. We didn’t really understand the relationship between inflammation and chronic pain, and specifically the role of food.”

The researchers of the current study were interested in the relationship between a high-fat diet and the body’s response to pain.

They recorded it previous research showed that high-fat diets can increase sensitivity to pain. However, they wanted to see if a high-fat diet could induce a painful response to non-painful stimuli.

Specifically, the researchers wondered whether the response to pain might occur in cases where diabetes or obesity are not involved.

“Previous studies looked at the relationship of a high-fat diet with mice that were also obese or had diabetes, but this recent study uncovered additional variables and was able to begin to identify a direct link between diet and chronic pain,” Simmons said.

The researchers conducted the study using groups of mice that were fed different diets. Some mice were fed a standard chow diet, while others were fed a high-fat diet for 8 weeks. In this time frame, mice on the high-fat diet did not develop obesity or hyperglycemia.

Mice fed a high-fat diet had much higher mechanical allodynia. Allodynia involves experiencing pain in response to non-painful stimuli.

“This study shows that you don’t need obesity to trigger pain; you don’t need diabetes; you don’t need pathology or injury at all,” study author Michael Burton, Ph.D., assistant professor of cellular and molecular neuroscience at the University of Texas at Dallas, explained in a news release.

“Eating a short-term, high-fat diet is enough — a diet similar to what almost everyone in the U.S. eats at some point,” he continued.

The study opens up further discussion about the effect of diet on pain response. Its main limitation is that it was a mouse study, so the limited amount of data applies to humans.

“We have to be careful not to jump to conclusions when studies are done on animals,” Simmons noted. “However, this study shows that more research should be done to better understand how diets such as a high-fat diet can affect chronic pain in humans.”

Dr. Sameer Murali, an obesity medicine specialist at UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann, TX, who is not involved in the study, noted several areas for continued research:

“Additional studies measuring changes in the microbiome, inflammatory markers, and pain based on dietary differences that compare established substitutes for the Western diet, a whole plant-based diet, and a control diet could help further clarify the relationship between diet composition.” and pain [and] inflammation. While this study is a step in the right direction, there are several gaps in the translation of findings from rodents to humans in order to derive any important clinical implications.”

As evidence mounts of the potentially harmful effects of high-fat diets, those following these eating habits may want to exercise caution.

In general, it’s a good idea to work with health professionals and nutritionists to create a diet plan that best suits your needs, especially if you have a medical condition.

As a rule of thumb for fat intake is Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025recommends that less than 10% of caloric intake come from saturated fat.

Overall, a moderate approach to fat consumption can be recommended.

“As with most things in nutrition, each extreme will have its consequences – very low-fat diets can result in excess carbohydrate intake and insufficient absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) which can lead to medical complications,” explained Simmons.

“Further research should be done on acceptable ranges of fat intake that do not increase systemic inflammation (increasing chronic pain or increased saturated fat intake) while avoiding very low-fat diets that could lead to vitamin malabsorption or hormone disruption. “

– Laura Simmons, RDN

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