Western diet can be the cause of chronic pain

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A typical high-fat Western diet can increase the risk of painful disorders, common in people with conditions such as diabetes or obesity, according to a groundbreaking paper written by a team led by the Center for Health Sciences at the University of San Antonio.

Moreover, changing your diet can reduce or even stop the pain from conditions that cause either inflammatory pain, such as arthritis, trauma or surgery, or neuropathic pain, such as diabetes. The new discovery could help treat patients with chronic pain by simply changing their diet or developing drugs that block the release of certain fatty acids from the body.

The research paper, which was worked on for more than five years, was published in the June 2021 issue of the journal Nature Metabolism by a multidisciplinary team (biomedical sciences, chemistry, neurology), consisting of 15 local researchers and led by the first co -authors Dr. Jacob T. Boyd, MD, Dr. Peter M. LoCoco, of the Endodontics Department at UT Health San Antonio.

“This study perfectly exemplifies team science – scientists and clinicians with complementary expertise working together to improve the quality of life,” said Kenneth M. Hargreaves, DDS, PhD, Professor and President of the Department of Endodontics at UT Health San Antonio and main author of the paper.

Fatty acids and pain

Chronic pain is a major cause of disability worldwide. Although reducing fat intake is often recommended to treat diabetes, autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular disease, the role of dietary lipids or fatty acids in pain conditions has been relatively unknown.

In the new paper, Dr. Boyd and colleagues used several methods, in both mice and humans, to study the role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in pain. They found that typical Western diets high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats served as a significant risk factor for both inflammatory and neuropathic pain.

Omega-6 fats, which are found mainly in foods with vegetable oils, have their benefits. But Western diets associated with obesity are characterized by much higher levels of acids in various foods than healthy omega-3 fats, which are found in fish, flax seeds and nuts.

In general, unhealthy foods high in omega-6 fats include processed snacks, fast food, cakes and fatty meat.

The researchers found that changing this diet, especially by lowering omega-6 and increasing omega-3 lipids, greatly reduced pain. The authors also demonstrated that cutaneous omega-6 lipid levels in patients with type 2 diabetic neuropathic pain were strongly associated with reported pain levels and the need to take analgesic drugs.

“This work is a high-quality contribution to a huge need, because there are no treatments that change the nature of this neurological disease,” said Dr. José E. Cavazos, Professor of Neurology.

This comprehensive study can serve as a basis for new clinical trials and, ultimately, can provide new avenues for the clinical treatment of neuropathies and beyond.

Until then, there is a digital tool that can help you with a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and more: the Dahna application. It gives you balanced recipes and menus rich in essential nutrients. Download it now from the AppStore or Google Play.

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