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Can Diet Contribute to Chronic Pain

A Western diet has been associated with a variety of negative health consequences, could chronic pain be the next? 

Omega-6 fatty acids are typically high in Western high-fat diets, compared to omega-3 fatty acids. A diet high in omega-6 fatty acids has been linked with inflammation and disease. 

A research group from The University of Texas Health Science Centre, San Antonio, investigated the effects of mimicking a high-fat Western diet in mice. Specifically, the researchers wanted to investigate the role of fatty acids on pain. 

The researchers reported that a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids is a risk factor for inflammatory and neuropathic pain.

In the study, mice were given a diet supplemented with omega-6 fatty acids. The researchers noted the development of specific hypersensitivity and markers of nerve damage similar to peripheral neuropathy in these mice.  

When the researchers reduced the amount of omega-6 and increased omega-3 fatty acids, these effects were reduced.  

According to the results of the study, omega-6 fatty acids may increase the risk of chronic pain. The results of this study also suggest that diet may play a critical role in the management of chronic pain

The study could also provide clues for the study of future treatment strategies and the design of medications that can be used to treat chronic pain conditions. 

Speak with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet, supplements, or medications. 


  1. Innes JK, Calder PC. Omega-6 fatty acids and inflammation. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2018 May;132:41-48. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2018.03.004. Epub 2018 Mar 22. PMID: 29610056.
  2. Jacob T. Boyd, Peter M. LoCoco, Ashley R. Furr, Michelle R. Bendele, Meilinn Tram, Qun Li, Fang-Mei Chang, Madeline E. Colley, Grace M. Samenuk, Dominic A. Arris, Erin E. Locke, Stephan B. H. Bach, Alejandro Tobon, Shivani B. Ruparel, Kenneth M. Hargreaves. Elevated dietary ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids induce reversible peripheral nerve dysfunction that exacerbates comorbid pain conditions. Nature Metabolism, 2021; 3 (6): 762 DOI: 10.1038/s42255-021-00410-x
  3. University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “Western high-fat diet can cause chronic pain, according to new study.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 June 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/06/210623141644.htm>.



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