Chic-fil-Aches: Eating fast food can cause pain — even if you’re thin and healthy, study suggests
- Certain 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 now scientists believe that even a few foods can cause similar damage
Eating junk food can cause pain or make people more sensitive to pain — even when they’re healthy and slim, a study suggests.
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 being obese or eating junk food for long periods of time can lead to chronic pain, but now researchers say that even just a few meals can cause damage.
A study in mice found that saturated fat in the blood binds to nerve cell receptors, leading to inflammation and mimicking the symptoms of nerve damage.
This process was observed after just eight weeks on a high-fat diet that did not contain enough calories to make the rodents overweight.
Dr. Michael Burton, assistant professor of neuroscience at UT Dallas, said, “This study shows that you don’t need diabetes; you don’t need pathology or injury at all.
“All you have to do is eat a high-fat diet for a short period of time—a diet similar to what almost everyone in the U.S. eats at some point.”
Previous studies have examined the relationship of a high-fat diet in mice that were also obese or had diabetes.
It comes after a study found that intermittent fasting – one of the most popular and promoted diet techniques – can actually increase the risk of early death.
Eating junk food can trigger chronic pain — even in healthy, lean people, study suggests (file image)
“However, this recent study uncovered additional variables and was able to begin to identify a direct link between diet and chronic pain,” Laura Simmons, a dietitian who was not involved in the study, told Medical News Today.
Research published in the journal Scientific Reports compared it the effects of different diets on two groups of mice over eight weeks.
One was given normal food, while the other was fed a high-fat diet that would not cause obesity.
The researchers looked for saturated fat in their blood. They found that mice on a high-fat diet had higher levels of palmitic acid.
They also observed fat binding to the nerve receptor TLR4, which caused the release of inflammatory markers.
The researchers believe that drugs that target this receptor could be the key to preventing inflammation and pain caused by a poor diet.
Dr Burton added: “Now that we can see that it’s the sensory neurons that are affected, how does that happen?
“We found that if you take away the receptor that palmitic acid binds to, you don’t see the sensitizing effect on these neurons.”
“This suggests there is a way to block it pharmacologically.”
Dr. Burton wants doctors to investigate whether a poor diet could be behind patients’ pain, even if they are not obese and appear otherwise healthy.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
• Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables count
• The basis of the meal is potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grain
• 30 grams of fiber a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole-grain crackers, 2 thick slices of whole-wheat bread, and a large baked potato with the skin on.
• Have some milk or milk alternatives (such as soy drinks) that are lower in fat and lower in sugar
• Eat beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish each week, one of which should be fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water daily
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide