Altering the course of pain through diet change

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Perhaps it’s time to change your oil? According to a study out of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, a high-fat, Western diet can impact the risk of painful conditions in individuals already dealing with diabetes and obesity.

On the flip side, altering your diet may greatly reduce or reverse inflammatory pain from arthritis, trauma, surgery, or neuropathic pain related to diabetes. This evidence suggests that diet modification could help treat those with chronic pain or aid in the development of medications that reduce the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body.

The paper was published after 5 years of research in the June issue of the Journal Nature Metabolism by 15 local researchers led by Jacob T Boyd, MD, Ph.D. and Peter M. LoCoco, Ph.D. of the Departments of Endodontics at UT Health San Antonio. UT Health prides itself on the collaboration of multiple scientists and clinicians with a variety of expertise to improve lives through this research.

A major, global cause of disability is due to chronic pain. While fat reduction is frequently suggested to manage diabetes, auto-immune conditions, and cardiovascular diseases, the impact of dietary fats has not been well studied.
Both mice and men (humans) were used in multiple methods for the research done by Dr. Boyd to evaluate the role of polyunsaturated fats and chronic pain. His team discovered that typical Western-style diets containing high levels of omega-6-fatty polyunsaturated fatty acids were associated with significant risk for inflammation and neuropathic pain.

Vegetable oils contain omega-6-fatty acids and do have some health benefits. However, these fats are often found in a Western diet in chips and French fries compared to omega-3-fatty acids found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds. These fats are also lurking in processed snacks, fast food, cured meats, cake, and other less than nutritious items.

By reducing consumption of omega-6-fatty acids and increasing intake of omega-3-fatty acids, chronic pain may be reduced, according to the research. The authors also discovered that skin levels of omega-6-fats were linked with pain levels and the necessity for pain-reducing medications.

Jose E Cavazos, MD, Ph.D., a neurology professor and assistant dean of the NIH-designated South Texas Medical Scientists Training Program at UT Health San Antonio praises the research since there are no treatments changing the course of neuropathies.

You can help your clients with an “oil change” with the following tips:

• Encourage nuts (including walnuts) as snacks in place of chips or sugary treats.
• Add ground flax seeds to oats, yogurt, smoothies or salads.
• Suggest “Fishy Friday” to encourage salmon and other fatty fish in their diets.
• Swap French fries for baked or roasted potatoes.
• Sprinkle chia seeds in homemade vinaigrette, marinade, oats, yogurt, and smoothies.

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD LD

1. Jacob T. Boyd, Peter M. LoCoco, Ashley R. Furr, Michelle R. Bendele, Meilinn Tram, Qun Li, Fang-Mei Chang, Madeline E. Colley, Grace M. Samenuk, Dominic A. Arris, Erin E. Locke, Stephan B. H. Bach, Alejandro Tobon, Shivani B. Ruparel, Kenneth M. Hargreaves. Elevated dietary ?-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids induce reversible peripheral nerve dysfunction that exacerbates comorbid pain conditions. Nature Metabolism, 2021; 3 (6): 762 DOI: 10.1038/s42255-021-00410-x

Handout: Diet Change to Remove Pain



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