March 03, 2017
2 min read

Mediterranean diet may limit obesity-related pain

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Anti-inflammatory foods such as fish, nuts and beans — some of the items that make up the Mediterranean diet — reduced the pain experienced by overweight people across multiple models, according to recently published research in Pain.

“We found that a healthy diet explained the link between weight and pain and specifically that seafood and plant proteins such as peas and nuts and beans were key,” Charles Emery, PhD, director, cardiopulmonary behavioral medicine program, The Ohio State University, said in a press release. “It appears to be telling us that it’s not just the quantity of the food you eat that plays a role in pain for heavier individuals, but the quality of food as well.”

Emery and colleagues evaluated 98 healthy adults during a 3-hour home visit where they examined the participants’ adiposity, health, food-related factors and home environment. Sixty percent of the participants were women, the average age of the participants was 43.2 years and their mean BMI was 30.4 kg/m2 ± 7.8. The participants completed a 24-hour food recall interview and self-reported measures of pain using the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36; the  mean pain score was 73.2 ± 22.1. The Healthy Eating Index 2010 was used to measure the quality of participants’ dietary intake, which averaged 59.4 ± 15.5

Researchers stated that modeling analyses showed the direct effect between BMI and bodily pain no longer held significance after factoring in the mediator (bBMI = –0.50, 95% CI, –1.06 to 0.07); but the indirect relationship between the two variables through Healthy Eating Index 2010 remained significant (bindirect = –0.34, 95% CI, –0.68 to –0.13). Thus, researchers wrote, Healthy Eating Index-2010 serves as an effective mediator of the relationship between pain and BMI. In both a second model that used a report of joint pain or diagnosis of arthritis coupled with pain medication use as covariates and in a third model that used psychological distress, years of education and age as covariates, the Healthy Eating Index 2010 remained what researchers called “a significant mediator.”

 “It was especially interesting that the primary component of dietary intake driving the mediation effect was consumption of seafood and plant protein. Given the higher content of omega-3 fatty acids in seafood and the documented anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids, this provides further support for the hypothesis that intake of foods with demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects may be a mechanism linking body fat to [pain],” Emery and colleagues wrote. “This dietary component of the [Healthy Eating Index-2010 also includes plant proteins with demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects such as nuts and seeds and soy products to account for respondents following a strictly vegetarian diet.”

The Mediterranean diet has also been linked to other health benefits, such as lowering the occurrence of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and cardiovascular events as well as improved cognition function in older adults. – by Janel Miller

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.