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Obesity and Pain

April 11, 2006

Obese people face a heightened risk for all kinds of other conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Now, new research suggests they may also be more susceptible to pain.


The pain of obesity. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Obese people may feel more pain than others – but you might not know it from asking them. This according to Ohio State University psychologist Charles Emery. He and his colleagues found that compared with non-obese people, obese people’s bodies were unusually sensitive to a pain reflex test. This dovetails with other research that links obesity to inflammation.

CHARLES EMERY (Ohio State University):
So you see higher levels of C-reactive proteins—proteins that we know are associated with inflammation in obese individuals, and those inflammatory factors are also found in people with chronic pain.

Yet in Emery’s study, the obese people didn’t report feeling more pain than anyone else. It’s not yet clear if they actually experience pain differently or were just being stoic. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.