Med Diet Could Relieve Pain Linked to Obesity

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, plant-based protein and seafood can decrease the chances an overweight person will experience regular pain due to inflammation.

Mar. 7, 2017
By Stav Dimitropoulos

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Mediterranean diet adher­ents the world over will find one more rea­son to con­tinue includ­ing lots of fruits, veg­eta­bles, plant-based pro­tein and fish in their diet. Ohio State University researchers have found that a Mediterranean-type diet could decrease the chances an over­weight per­son will expe­ri­ence reg­u­lar pain.

Our study found lower pain asso­ci­ated with a diet that was gen­er­ally asso­ci­ated with reduced inflam­ma­tion.- Charles Emery, Ohio State Univ.

That obe­sity is painful” has been attrib­uted to the fact that a mul­ti­tude of chronic con­di­tions caus­ing pain is more com­mon in peo­ple who are obese and overweight. 

Prior stud­ies have doc­u­mented that obe­sity is asso­ci­ated with pain in a vari­ety of areas includ­ing joint pain (hip and knee), headache, lower back pain, fibromyal­gia, chronic wide­spread pain, abdom­i­nal pain, pelvic pain, and neu­ro­pathic pain,” Charles Emery, the lead researcher and a mem­ber of Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research told Olive Oil Times.

In the study that appeared in the jour­nal Pain, 98 men and women aged between 20 and 78 years were exam­ined. First, the researchers came up with a model that could help them estab­lish if an anti-inflam­ma­tory diet high in healthy fats, fish, plant-based pro­teins like nuts and beans, fruits and veg­eta­bles and whole grains (your typ­i­cal Mediterranean diet) was cru­cial as to whether these indi­vid­u­als’ weight would con­tribute to pain. 

The model took into con­sid­er­a­tion weight, an analy­sis of self-reported dietary pat­terns (the Health Eating Index, a mea­sure of diet qual­ity based on U.S. dietary guide­lines), and results stem­ming from a two-ques­tion pain sur­vey. Researchers vis­ited each inter­vie­wee in their home and spent three hours with them, while they also con­sid­ered the par­tic­i­pants’ age, whether they suf­fered from depres­sion or not, and whether they made use of anal­gesic med­ica­tion or not, as these were deemed impor­tant fac­tors that could inter­fere with the result. 

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Next, three dif­fer­ent mea­sures of weight were employed to test the model: body mass index, waist cir­cum­fer­ence, and body fat per­cent­age. In all three mea­sures, the study found evi­dence that the pres­ence or absence of anti-inflam­ma­tory pro­teins may offer expla­na­tions as to why increased weight is asso­ci­ated with pain. It was estab­lished that the com­po­nents of a Mediterranean-type diet were linked with less pain, regard­less of body weight. 

But what are the prop­er­ties of the Mediterranean diet that ren­der it strongly anti-inflam­ma­tory, and are there per­haps any com­po­nents that are more anti-inflam­ma­tory than others? 

The anti-inflam­ma­tory effect results from a bet­ter bal­ance of fats in the diet — for exam­ple, Omega 3 or Omega 6, which have direct effects on metab­o­lism,” Emery said. 

Our study found lower pain asso­ci­ated with a diet that was gen­er­ally asso­ci­ated with reduced inflam­ma­tion, includ­ing lower amounts of refined grains, sodium, and added sug­ars, in addi­tion to greater intake of fruits and vegetables. 

When we then focused on the com­po­nent of that diet that was most strongly asso­ci­ated with lower pain, it was seafood and plant-pro­tein, foods pri­mar­ily asso­ci­ated with the Mediterranean diet,” said Emery. 

It is also impor­tant to keep in mind that over­all dietary intake is impor­tant for reduc­ing inflam­ma­tion and pain. It would be a mis­take to say that any one or two or three dietary com­po­nents would be respon­si­ble for the anti-inflam­ma­tory effect and reduc­tion in pain,” said Emery, whose next step is to study body fat and pain using bio­mark­ers asso­ci­ated with inflammation.



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