A diet abundant in ultra-processed fats and sugars increases the probability of muscle pain

Diets high in fats and sugars are well related to higher risks for obesity over the years, but a new study links these foods to pain. Researchers in Spain say overeating processed and fatty food can lead to the muscle nerves experiencing more inflammation and stress.

A researchers’ team from the Universitat Rovira I Virgili ascertains consuming a diet rich in fats and sugars from ultra-processed foods leads to an increase in the number of inflammatory molecules in the body.

The study authors tested a group of mice. These mice consumed either a typical cafeteria diet (high in added sugars) or a high-fat diet for six weeks. The team then determined the amount of intramuscular fat cells (adipocytes) each mouse gathered during this time. Researchers then concluded how much musculoskeletal neurotransmission each mouse was experiencing.

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

Stress from extra weight is not causing muscle pain.

According to the researcher’s such diets, even when they only last six weeks, develop muscle pain in the eater. Although the mice soon returned to their average weight, the pain caused by that food persisted for several more weeks that followed.

Western cultures are especially at risk since their obesity rates continue to soar, according to the researchers. The study affirms obesity rates have tripled between 1975 and 2016 worldwide. By 2030, almost 40 percent of the global population might be overweight, and 20 percent will be obese. These conditions are also some of the preeminent causes for developing more severe ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and musculoskeletal pain.

Scientists believe that most pain in obese or overweight patients is due to the added stress those extra pounds put on the joints. In a media release, study author Manel Santafe says this new report “unveils a relationship between pain and overweight that is individualistic of mechanical overload, and it is likely that it involves systemic phenomena of the organism.”

The study appears in the journal’ NUTRIENTS.’

Policies that restrict ultra-processed food intake are urgently required, say researchers

Two extensive European studies find positive associations between consuming highly processed (“ultra-processed”) foods and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death.

More research is required to understand these effects better, and a direct link remains established, as per the researchers. Still, they call for policies that promote minimally processed or fresh foods over highly processed foods.

Ultra-processed foods comprise packaged baked goods and snacks, ready meals containing food additives, fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, dehydrated vegetable soups, and reconstituted meat and fish products. It often has high levels of added sugar, fat, and salt but lacks vitamins and fiber. They account for around 25-60% of daily energy intake in many countries.

Past studies have associated ultra-processed foods with higher risks of obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancers. However, firm evidence is still needed to establish this fact.

In the first study, researchers from France and Brazil evaluated potential connections between ultra-processed foods and cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease (conditions affecting the blood supply to the brain and heart).

According to their findings, 105,159 French adults (21% men; 79% women) with an average age of 43 years completed an average of six 24-hour dietary questionnaires to measure the usual intake of 3,300 different food items part of the ‘NutriNet-Santé study.’

Researchers divided the foods according to the degree of processing and disease rates over a maximum follow-up of 10 years (2009-2018).

According to the results, an absolute 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed food in the diet associates with significantly higher overall cardiovascular disease rates, coronary heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease (an increase of 12%, 13%, and 11%, respectively).

The researchers found a significant relationship between unprocessed or minimally treated foods and lower risks of all reported diseases, in contrast.

In the other study, researchers based in Spain assessed possible associations between ultra-processed food intake and death risk from any cause (“all-cause mortality”).

According to the researchers’ findings, 19,899 Spanish university graduates (7,786 men; 12,113 women) with an average age of 38 years finished a 136-item dietary questionnaire as part of the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) study.

According to the level of processing and deaths, measured over an average of 10 years, researchers grouped the food.

According to the results, higher consumption of ultra-processed foods (more than four servings per day) associates itself with a 62% increased risk of all-cause mortality than lower consumption (less than two servings per day). For each extra daily serving of ultra-processed food, mortality risk relatively increased by 18% (a dose-response effect).

Both studies are observational, so they can’t prove causality. Also, there’s a possibility that some of the observed risks may be due to unmeasured confounding determinants.

Both research teams say policies that restrict the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet and promote the eating of unprocessed or minimally processed foods are needed to improve global public well-being.

This view is backed by Australian researchers in a linked editorial, who say the dietary recommendation is relatively honest: eat less ultra-processed food and more unprocessed or minimally processed food.

They say future research should examine associations between ultra-processed food and health harms in different populations worldwide and explore how damage occurs.

In the meantime, policymakers “should change their priorities away from food reformulation – which risks positioning ultra-processed food as a resolution to dietary problems – towards a greater stress on promoting the availability, affordability, and convenience of unprocessed or minimally processed foods,” they conclude.

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