Dr's Casebook: Reducing your intake of fat could help with chronic pain
Many people live with chronic pain.
This is the type of pain that just persists and is unlikely to go away on its own.
It has no useful function, so it just grinds away at you and can markedly affect your well-being.
Inflammatory pain from conditions like arthritis, or neuropathic or nerve pain as can occur in diabetes, are examples of this.
Research from the USA recently published in the journal Nature Metabolism suggests that dietary change to reduce fat intake can significantly reduce or even reverse pain from these conditions.
In addition, they point the way to drug developments that could block the release of certain fatty acids in the body.
This research was carried out by chemists and clinicians, who carried out a range of investigations in both mice and humans to study the role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in pain conditions.
It is already known that the typical Western diet increases the risk of developing chronic pain from both inflammation and neuropathic, or nerve pain.
Western diets tend to be high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, and low in healthy omega-3 fats, which are found in fish and sources like flaxseed and walnuts.
Generally, less healthy foods high in omega-6 fats include processed snacks, fast foods, cakes, and fatty and cured meats.
The researchers found that changing the diet, especially by lowering omega-6 and increasing omega-3 lipids, greatly reduced these pain conditions in study participants with chronic pain conditions, both inflammatory and neuropathic.
Very interestingly, they found that skin levels of omega-6 lipids in patients with Type 2 diabetic neuropathic pain were strongly associated with high pain levels and the need for taking painkillers.
The fats used in preparing a lot of fast food include trans fats and polyunsaturated fats. These promote inflammation because arachidonic acid, one of the fatty acids found in these fats, is broken down by enzymes into prostaglandins and leukotrienes.
These are chemicals that are known to trigger inflammation.
Cutting down on the processed foods, fast food, cakes and fries will reduce the intake of the omega-6s.
To get the omega-3s in their natural form, the oily fish are a good source.
That is fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines.
Aim at having three portions a week.