Western High Fat Diets and Pain Disorders

Nov 24 , 2021

Fluid Fitness

Western High Fat Diets and Pain Disorders

Significance of Fatty Acids

Have you ever wondered about why certain omega fatty acids are considered healthier than others?  Besides the well-known health risks associated with obesity, the answer lies more in the ratio of fats consumed and the inflammation reaction. 


The three types of omega fatty acids are omega-3 (ex. fatty fish, eggs, dairy, canola oil, etc.), omega-6 (ex.  fish/seafood, eggs, dairy, safflower oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, nuts and meat) omega-9 (ex. olive oil).  Both omega-3 and omega-6 are polysaturated and “essential” fatty acids, which means they need to be obtained and can’t be produced within the body, whereas omega-9 is a monosaturated nonessential fatty acid that can be produced by the body.  They all aid in decreasing bad cholesterol, increasing cardiovascular health, brain function, and metabolism.


The issues arise when there an imbalance of the essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6.


While all three types of omega fatty acids can be beneficial for heart and body(especially the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids), the excess of omega-6 fatty acids, relative to omega- fatty acids, in western diets can increase inflammatory markers, especially in those who are obese.  To note, some research suggests no effect in those of healthy weight (Innes, P. Calder, 2018). However, the more excess weight one puts on, the more likely the increase in inflammatory markers.


This is significant because inflammation, especially long term, leads to chronic pain and pain disorders.


According to a study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, there is a link between high-fat diets (more specifically, Omega-6 fatty acids commonly found in foods that are highly processed and high in vegetable oil content) and chronic pain issues.  This is relevant because the standard American diet consists of highly processed, nutrient-void calorie-dense foods and is a major contributor to metabolic conditions (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, auto-immune issues, etc.) and the rapid rise of obesity. As mentioned previously, chronic inflammation an excess weight often leads to pain issues.


Implications and Conclusions

Diet is just as important as exercise when it comes to pain management.  In fact, a poor diet may decrease the optimal benefit of exercise.  Moderation and balance in one’s diet is key to prevent and alleviate chronic inflammation and pain.  This means that while omega-6 fatty acids have health benefits, omega-3 fatty acids can help decrease the inflammatory effects.