Ditch the fries, pass the spinach for pain relief, UT Health San Antonio study says

Study provides new, better reason to watch your fats

A UT Health San Antonio research team says it’s found the connection between the high-fat Western diet and chronic pain.

SAN ANTONIO – A UT Health San Antonio research team says it’s found the connection between the high-fat Western diet and chronic pain. It’s a groundbreaking study that is 10 years in the making, and it could affect many illnesses and even impact the opioid epidemic.

In particular, dietary choices for those with diabetes, autoimmune disorders like lupus, and cardiovascular diseases have long been studied for their effect causing disease. But looking at a high Omega 6 fat diet in and of itself, and a connection to pain and inflammation, is a new approach being unpacked by the UT researchers.

According to lead researcher Dr. Ken Hargreaves, DDS, chair of the Department of Endodontics at UT Health San Antonio, the degree of your pain and inflammation can be determined by the amount of Omega 6 fatty acids in your body. As a result, curing that pain could amount to a new attitude at the grocery store instead of taking a pill.

“If we enrich the diet with the healthy omega three lipids, we relieve pain due to both inflammation and we relieve pain due to neuropathies, so we think it’s a broad effect,” Hargreaves said.

The theory was tested on laboratory mice that suffered from diabetic neuropathy. The mice that were given reduced Omega 6 lipids in their diet and an increase in healthier Omega 3 lipids, showed remarkable relief simply from the change in diet. While both are good fats necessary for health, the balance should shift toward Omega 3′s.

“So those who have more of the unhealthy omega six lipids actually have more pain and are the ones that need more painkillers, more analgesic drugs, because they have so much pain, Hargreaves said.

Taking the theory down to your grocery store shopping trip, it’s suggested you buy more Omega 3 foods like tuna, broccoli, spinach, flax seed and mangos. They have a much higher Omega 3 content as compared to their Omega 6.

The opposite is true of processed foods like cookies, cakes, onion rings, French fries, and another that’s fried in vegetable oils.

The far-reaching effects of the research could affect those suffering from diabetic neuropathy, literally curing them by changing their diet. The opioid addiction crisis that has gripped the nation could also be eased, using dietary adjustments instead of analgesics

Hargreaves said while we rely a lot of medications in our society, there are possibilities here.

“Here’s a simple trick that you can see if we change your diet and maybe avoid some medications just because you can treat the pain by what you eat,” he said.

The five-year study that was published in the Journal Metabolism is getting worldwide attention. To read more about it, click here.

About the Author:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.