- Beyond the pain, the excess of fat in our diet is bad for our overall health.
- It contributes to the development of certain diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome (a set of disorders due to excess fat: weight gain, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, etc.) and an imbalance in our intestinal microbiota.
The medical world has long agreed that the nerve damage and pain seen in people with diabetes or obesity is linked to their metabolic state. Researchers at the University of Texas-Dallas are now challenging that notion. According to their new study conducted on mice, published in the journal Scientific Reportsthe regular consumption of foods that are too fatty could actually be the determining factor for pain in some people.
A diet that is too fatty could be a trigger for pain
“This study indicates that you don’t need to have obesity to trigger pain, nor do you have to have diabetes or another pathologysays one of the study’s co-authors, Dr Michael Burton, in a communiqué. Eating a high-fat diet for a short period of time is sufficient”.
For their study, Burton and his team compared the effects of different diets on two groups of mice for eight weeks. One received a normal diet, while the other received a high-fat diet. They also used a group of obese and diabetic mice to be able to compare them with the others.
Pain: palmitic acid, a type of saturated fat, may be the culprit
Researchers looked for saturated fat in the blood of mice consuming the fatty diet and found that palmitic acid, the most common form of saturated fat, binds to a certain receptor on nerve cells, which causes inflammation and mimics the effects of nerve damage.
This finding suggests that it may be possible to stop this binding process, as Dr. Burton explains: “Now that we 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 this sensitizing effect on those neurons. That suggests that there is a way to block it pharmacologically”.
Dr. Burton encourages medical professionals to consider the dangerous effects of eating too fatty foods not only in patients who are obese or at higher risk of diabetes, but in anyone who may be experiencing pain.