A typical high-fat Western diet can increase the risk of common painful disorders in people with conditions such as diabetes or obesity, according to an innovative study led by the Center for Health Sciences at the University of Texas in San Antonio (United States). In this sense, the rate in Spain of overweight and obesity is around 60%.
Additionally, dietary changes can significantly reduce or even reverse the pain of the conditions that cause the inflammatory pain (such as arthritis, trauma, or surgery) or neuropathic pain, such as diabetes. This novel finding, published in the magazine Nature Metabolism, could help treat chronic pain patients simply by modifying their diet or developing drugs that block the release of certain fatty acids in the body.
The chronic pain is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. However, although fat reduction is often advised to control diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and cardiovascular disease, the role of dietary lipids, or fatty acids, in pain conditions has been relatively unknown.
The work, which has lasted more than five years, has used multiple methods, both in mice and in humans, to study the role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in pain disorders. Thus, they discovered that typical western diets high in polyunsaturated fats omega-6s were an important risk factor for both inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
Omega-6 fats, found primarily in foods with vegetable oils, have their benefits. But western diets associated with obesity are characterized by much higher levels of these acids in foods ranging from from corn chips to onion rings, than healthy omega-3 fats, found in fish and sources like flaxseed and walnuts.
In general, unhealthy foods high in omega-6 fats include processed snacks, fast food, cakes and fatty and cured meats, among others.
The researchers found that reversing this diet, especially by reducing omega-6s and increasing omega-3 lipids, greatly reduced these pain conditions.
Furthermore, the authors showed that omega-6 lipid levels in the skin of patients with type 2 diabetic neuropathic pain they were strongly associated with reported pain levels and the need to take analgesic drugs.