New research published in Nutrients suggests an association between pain and overweight that is independent of mechanical overload and may involve systemic phenomena.

A research team from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona – Spain) observed that following a diet rich in fats and sugars from ultra-processed foods (such as sweet rolls and pastries) for a 6-week period increases the number of inflammatory molecules in the organism, which increases the excitability of the muscle nerves. This is known as musculoskeletal neurotransmission, a media release from Universitat Rovira i Virgili explains.

Cafeteria vs Commercial Diet

The experiments were carried out in male Swiss mice. One group was given a typical cafeteria diet, high in added sugars (for example, sweet rolls and pastries), and another was given a high-fat commercial diet for a period of 6 weeks. The researchers then calculated the intramuscular adipocytes and used electromyography to assess musculoskeletal neurotransmission, the response of the muscle nerves.

The mice who had consumed a cafeteria diet showed more adipocytes in the muscle tissue, but the same cannot be said for the fat-rich diet. However, both groups showed an increase in neuromuscular transmission, which lasted for several weeks after the diets had been terminated.

The researchers conclude that a 6-week hypercaloric diet in mice increases neurotransmission, which leads to the development of muscle pain. After this period, the mice quickly regained their normal weight, although the neurotransmission parameters remained high for several weeks.

Relationship Between Obesity and Pain

Normally, the association between overweight and musculoskeletal pain is attributed to an increase in mechanical stress caused by the extra weight that has to be supported by the weight-bearing joints.

This current research, however, “reveals an association between pain and overweight that is independent of mechanical overload and it is probable that it involves systemic phenomena of the organism,” says Manel Santafe, one of the authors of the study.

[Source(s): Universitat Rovira i Virgili, EurekAlert]

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