Study finds eating too much ultra-processed food may fuel muscle pain

A number of studies have focused on the potential health ramifications of eating diets high in fact, sugar, and processed foods. When it comes to the latter two, experts have linked too much of these foods with various health effects, including the increased risk for obesity, diabetes, certain types of cancer, and even dementia. The newest study on this topic adds another potential consequence to the list.

The new study comes from Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain, where researchers used male mice to evaluate the potential effects of an ultra-processed hypercaloric diet high in sugar and fat on pain. The mice were split into two groups, one given a high-sugar diet and the other was a high-fat diet.

After they ate this diet for six weeks, the researchers evaluated the mice and found that the group fed the high-sugar diet had experienced an increase in intramuscular adipocytes (fat cells), but the same wasn't found in the high-fat diet group.

However, both groups of mice were found to have experienced a boost in the neuromuscular transmission that continued to persist for several weeks after the mice were put back on their normal diets. The increase in neurotransmission, the study notes, leads to experiences of muscle pain.

The mice went back to their normal body weight after resuming their standard diet, but it took several weeks for the neurotransmission to get back to normal. Obesity, which often results from eating too much high-sugar and high-fat processed foods, is itself linked to pain due to the mechanical stress it puts on the body.

However, this new study indicates that extra weight may not be the sole cause of this pain, with the studying noting that these findings hint at 'an association between pain and [being] overweight that is independent of mechanical overload,' one likely due to the changes that take place in the body as the result of poor diet composition.

Of course, it's important to note that this study only involved lab mice, not humans. Additional research will be necessary to determine whether similar results are found in people who eat excessive amounts of ultra-processed foods.