High-fat diets may contribute to chronic pain, study finds

High-fat diets may contribute to chronic pain, study finds

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A 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 can contribute to health issues, such as inflammation.
  • Researchers are still struggling to understand the relationship between high-fat diets, inflammation, and chronic pain.
  • A recent study found that people who ate a high-fat diet experienced pain responses to non-painful stimuli, an effect similar to that seen in people who are obese or have type 2 diabetes.

Food is an essential element of health. Researchers are constantly uncovering new data about how food influences the body. One area of ​​interest is how high-fat diets contribute to pain and inflammatory responses.

A recent study published in scientific reports explored how high-fat diets induced pain responses in mice to nonpainful stimuli.

The study results indicate that high-fat diets could induce pain responses to non-painful stimuli, a similar effect that can be seen in people with obesity or type 2 diabetes.

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

People’s diets require at least a little fat to ensure optimal functioning of the body.

Lipids allow the body to store energy and contribute to cell protection and structure. However, too much fat can lead to potential problems. For example, consuming too much 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 high-fat dietary trends, especially in the United States.

Researchers are still striving 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, registered dietitian nutritionist at RET Physical Therapy & Healthcare Specialists, WA, not involved in the study, noted Medical News Today:

“We already know that high fat diets can be inflammatory for our systems due to increased inflammatory markers, increased plaque formation in arteries and fat deposits if the high fat diet helps to a caloric surplus We don’t have a great understanding of the relationship between inflammation and chronic pain, and more specifically the role of food.

Researchers in the current study looked at the relationship between high-fat diets and the body’s response to pain.

They noted that Previous search demonstrated that high-fat diets can increase pain sensitivity. But they wanted to see if high-fat diets could induce a pain response to nonpainful stimuli.

Specifically, the researchers asked whether a pain response might occur in cases without diabetes or obesity.

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

The researchers conducted the study using groups of mice fed different diets. They fed some mice a standard diet, while others were given a high-fat diet for 8 weeks. During this period, the mice fed the high-fat diet did not develop obesity or hyperglycemia.

Mice that received the high-fat diet had a much higher mechanical allodynic response. Allodynia is the feeling of pain in response to nonpainful stimuli.

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

“Eating a high-fat diet for a short time is enough — a diet similar to what almost all of us eat in the United States at some point,” he continued.

The study opens new discussions on the influence of diet on pain response. Its main limitation is that it was a study using mice, so a 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 is needed to better understand how diets like a high-fat diet may influence chronic pain in humans.”

Dr. Sameer Murali, obesity medicine specialist at UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann, TX, not involved in this study, noted a few areas for continued research:

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

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

It’s generally a good idea to work with medical professionals and nutrition experts to develop a diet that best meets your needs, especially if you have a medical condition.

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

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

“As with most things in nutrition, anything extreme will have a consequence – diets that are very low in fat can lead to excessive carbohydrate intake and inadequate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K), which can also lead to health complications,” Simmons explained.

“There should be more research into acceptable ranges of fat intake that do not increase systemic inflammation (increased chronic pain or increased saturated fat intake) while avoiding a very low fat diet. fats that could lead to vitamin malabsorption or hormonal disruption.”

– Laura Simmons, RDN

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