A typical Western high-fat diet can increase the risk of painful disorders common in people with conditions such as diabetes or obesity, according to a study from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio), published in Nature Metabolism.

Changes in diet may significantly reduce or even reverse pain from conditions causing either inflammatory pain — such as arthritis, trauma or surgery — or neuropathic pain, such as diabetes. The finding could help treat chronic-pain patients by simply altering diet or developing drugs that block release of certain fatty acids in the body.

Fatty Acids and Pain

Chronic pain is a major cause of disability around the world. But although fat-reduction often is advised to manage diabetes, auto-immune disorders and cardiovascular diseases, the role of dietary lipids, or fatty acids, in pain conditions has been relatively unknown.

In the study, the researchers used multiple methods in both mice and humans to study the role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in pain conditions. 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, mainly found in foods with vegetable oils, have their benefits. But Western diets associated with obesity are characterized by much-higher levels of those acids in foods from corn chips to onion rings, than healthy omega-3 fats, which are found in fish and sources like flaxseed and walnuts.

Generally, unhealthy foods high in omega-6 fats include processed snacks, fast foods, cakes, and fatty and cured meats, among others.

Reversal of this diet, especially by lowering omega-6 and increasing omega-3 lipids, greatly reduced these pain conditions, the researchers suggest. Also, the authors demonstrated that skin levels of omega-6 lipids in patients with Type 2 diabetic neuropathic pain were strongly associated with reported pain levels and the need for taking analgesic drugs, the release, from University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, explains.

“This paper is a high-profile contribution for a huge unmet translational need as there are no treatments altering the nature of this neurological disease.”

— José E. Cavazos, MD, PhD, professor of neurology, assistant dean and director of the National Institutes of Health-designated South Texas Medical Scientist Training Program at UT Health San Antonio

[Source(s): University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Science Daily]

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