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FRIDAY, March 10, 2017 (HealthDay News) — People who are overweight and plagued by chronic pain may find relief in a Mediterranean diet, new research suggests.

The study of 98 men and women between the ages of 20 and 78 builds on growing evidence that a diet heavy on fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans provides significant health benefits. It also sheds new light on why eating these foods might reduce pain associated with obesity.

Because obese people with chronic pain usually also have a high degree of inflammation, lead researcher Charles Emery suspects the foods’ anti-inflammatory properties might explain the reduced pain levels.

“Although the relationship of body fat and pain has been well-documented in prior studies, the mechanism is not known,” said Emery, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

“One possibility is the stress of body weight on joints. A second possible mechanism is via inflammatory factors in the bloodstream, because both body fat and pain are known to be associated with elevated inflammation,” he said.

Slightly more than 70 percent of American adults are overweight, with 38 percent considered obese (at least 30 pounds overweight), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the study, Emery and his Ohio State colleagues reviewed participants’ eating habits and their answers on a short questionnaire about the pain they experience. The researchers also considered the participants’ age, mental health and use of pain medications.

The upshot: No matter what they weighed, those who ate more fish and plant-based proteins such as nuts and beans had less pain.

While adjusting their findings to account for age-related pain among older participants, the researchers found that a Mediterranean diet benefited men and women of all ages.

Emery said the study had limitations, however: The researchers did not account for chronic pain that lasted more…

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