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High Blood Glucose and Excess Body fat Enhance Pain Sensitivity and Weaken Pain Inhibition in Healthy Adults: A Single-blind Cross-over Randomized Controlled Trial

Published:September 16, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2022.09.006

      Highlights

      • Ingesting 75-g glucose enhanced pain sensitivity during cold-water immersion.
      • Glucose ingestion weakened pressure pain inhibition after cold-water immersion.
      • Glucose ingestion suppressed resting heart rate variability.
      • The effects of glucose were strongest in people with excess body fat mass.

      Abstract

      To investigate links between blood glucose, body fat mass and pain, the effects of acute hyperglycaemia on pain sensitivity and pain inhibition were examined in healthy adults with normal (n = 24) or excess body fat (n = 20) determined by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Effects of hyperglycaemia on heart rate variability and reactive hyperaemia were also explored. For the overall sample, ingesting 75-g glucose enhanced pain sensitivity during 1-minute cold-water immersion of both feet (conditioning stimulus) and weakened the pain inhibitory effect of cold water on pressure pain thresholds (test stimulus). Exploratory subgroup analyses not adjusted for multiple comparisons suggested that this effect was limited to people with excess fat mass. In addition, acute hyperglycaemia suppressed resting heart rate variability only in people with excess fat mass. Furthermore, regardless of blood glucose levels, people with excess fat mass had weaker pain inhibition for pinprick after cold water and reported more pain during 5-minutes of static blood flow occlusion. Neither high blood glucose nor excess body fat affected pinprick-temporal summation of pain or reactive hyperaemia. Together, these findings suggest that hyperglycaemia and excess fat mass interfere with pain processing and autonomic function.

      Perspective

      Ingesting 75-g glucose (equivalent to approximately 2 standard cans of soft drink) interfered with pain-processing and autonomic function, particularly in people with excess body fat mass. As both hyperglycaemia and overweight are risk factors for diabetes, whether these are sources of pain in people with diabetes should be further explored.

      Key words

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