Chic-fil-Aches: Eating junk food can cause pain, study suggests — even if you’re slim and healthy
- Some of the fats in fast food are known to raise cholesterol and lead to inflammation
- A poor diet or obesity leads to chronic inflammation and sensitivity to pain
- But researchers now believe that eating too few servings can cause similar harm
A study finds that eating junk food can cause pain or make people more sensitive to pain – even if they’re healthy and thin.
Some of the fats in fast food can cause cholesterol to build up in the arteries, which leads to inflammation, which leads to joint pain and makes people more sensitive to pain.
It’s well-documented that obesity or eating junk food for a long time can lead to chronic pain, but researchers are now saying that just eating a few meals can cause harm.
A study in mice found that saturated fats in the blood bind to receptors on nerve cells that trigger inflammation and mimic symptoms of nerve damage.
This process was observed after only eight weeks of eating a high-fat diet that did not contain enough calories to gain weight in the rodents.
“This study suggests you don’t need diabetes. You don’t need pathology or injury at all,” said Dr. Michael Burton, assistant professor of neuroscience at UT Dallas.
“Eating a high-fat diet for a short time is enough — a diet similar to what almost all of us have eaten in the United States at some point.”
Previous studies looked at the relationship between high-fat diets and obese or diabetic mice.
It comes after a study found that intermittent fasting — one of the most popular and promoted dieting techniques — may actually increase the risk of an early death.
Study suggests eating junk food can cause chronic pain – even in healthy, thin people (file photo)
“But this latest study took in more variables and was able to begin to identify a direct relationship between diet and chronic pain,” Laura Simmons, a registered dietitian who was not involved in the study, told Medical News Today.
The research published in Scientific Reports compares Effects of different diets on two groups of mice over the course of eight weeks.
One received normal food, while the other was fed a non-obese high-fat diet.
The researchers looked for saturated fats in their blood. They found that mice on a high-fat diet had higher levels of palmitic acid.
They also noted that the fat binds to the nerve receptor TLR4, causing it to release inflammatory markers.
Researchers believe that drugs that target this receptor could be key to preventing inflammation and pain caused by poor diets.
Dr Burton added: “Now that we’ve seen that it’s the sensory neurons that are affected, how does that happen?
We’ve discovered that if you remove the receptor that palmitic acid binds to, you don’t see the desensitizing effect on those neurons.
This indicates that there is a way to prevent it pharmacologically.
Dr. Burton wants doctors to investigate whether a poor diet could be behind patients’ pain, even if they’re not obese and appear to be otherwise healthy.
What should a balanced diet look like?
• Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. Fresh, frozen, dried, and canned fruits and vegetables all count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains
• 30 grams of fiber per day: the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-grain crackers, 2 thick slices of whole-wheat bread, and a large baked potato with the skin on
• Make some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks) choose lower-fat, lower-sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein (including two servings of fish each week, one of which should be fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and fats and consume in small quantities
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water daily
• Adults should eat less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide