Diets high in ultra-processed fats increase the risk of battling muscle pain

TARRAGONA, Spain — Diets high in fats and sugars have been well connected to higher risks for obesity over the years, but a new study is now linking these foods to pain. Researchers in Spain say eating too much processed, fatty food can lead to the muscle nerves experiencing more inflammation.

A team from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili finds consuming a diet rich in fats and sugars from ultra-processed foods increases the number of inflammatory molecules in the body. This increases the excitability of muscle nerves, in a process called musculoskeletal neurotransmission.

Study authors examined a group of mice as they consumed either a typical cafeteria diet (high in added sugars) or a high-fat commercial diet for six weeks. The team calculated the amount of intramuscular fat cells (adipocytes) each mouse accumulated during this time. Using electromyography, a process of measuring electrical activity in muscle tissue, researchers then determined how much musculoskeletal neurotransmission each mouse was experiencing.

The results reveal mice eating a cafeteria diet have more adipocytes in their muscles than those on a high-fat diet. Both groups however, displayed an increase in neuromuscular transmission levels which continued to last long after ending their diets.

It’s not the stress from extra weight causing muscle pain

Researchers say such diets, even when they only last six weeks, increases the development of muscle pain in the eater. Although the mice quickly returned to their normal weight, the pain caused by that food remained for several more weeks.

Researchers say Western cultures are particularly at risk since their obesity rates continue to climb. The study finds worldwide obesity rates have tripled between 1975 and 2016. By 2030, nearly 40 percent of the global population is expected to be overweight and 20 percent will be obese. These conditions are also some of the leading causes for developing more serious ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and musculoskeletal pain.

Scientists used to believe that most of the pain in obese or overweight patients was due to the added stress those extra pounds put on the joints. Study author Manel Santafe says in a media release this new report, “reveals an association between pain and overweight that is independent of mechanical overload and it is probable that it involves systemic phenomena of the organism.”

The study appears in the journal Nutrients.