SAN ANTONIO – A research team from UT Health San Antonio says they found the link between the high-fat Western diet and chronic pain. It’s a groundbreaking study, spanning over 10 years, that could impact many diseases and even the opioid epidemic.

In particular, nutritional decisions for people with diabetes, autoimmune diseases such as lupus and cardiovascular diseases have long been examined for their disease-causing effects. But looking at a diet high in omega-6 fat in and of itself and a link to pain and inflammation is a new approach being developed by UT researchers.

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


“When we add the healthy omega-3 lipids to the diet, we relieve both pain from inflammation and pain from neuropathy, so we believe it has a broad effect,” said Hargreaves.

The theory was tested on laboratory mice suffering from diabetic neuropathy. The mice that were given reduced omega-6 lipids and an increase in healthier omega-3 lipids in their diet showed remarkable relief from the change in diet alone. While both are good fats that are necessary for good health, the balance should shift towards omega-3 fatty acids.

“Those who have more of the unhealthy omega-6 lipids actually have more pain and need more pain relievers, more pain relievers because they are in so much pain,” said Hargreaves.

If you apply the theory to your grocery shopping, it is recommended that you buy more omega-3 foods like tuna, broccoli, spinach, flaxseed, and mangoes. They have a much higher omega-3 content compared to their omega-6 fatty acids.


The opposite is true for processed foods like cookies, cakes, onion rings, french fries, and others that are deep-fried in vegetable oils.

The far-reaching implications of the research could affect people with diabetic neuropathy and literally cure them through diet changes. The opioid addiction crisis that has gripped the nation could also be alleviated through dietary adjustments instead of analgesics

Hargreaves said that although we are dependent on many drugs in our society, there are options here.

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

The five-year study published in the journal Metabolism has received worldwide attention. To learn more about it, click here.

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