Avoiding Inflammatory Foods Can Lower Heart Disease, Stroke Risk

Diets high in red and processed meat, refined grains and sugary beverages, which have been associated with increased inflammation in the body, can increase subsequent risk of heart disease and stroke compared to diets filled with anti-inflammatory foods according to a study published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. A separate JACC study assessed the positive effects eating walnuts, an anti-inflammatory food, had on decreasing inflammation and heart disease risk.

Chronic inflammation has been shown to play an important role in the development of heart disease and stroke. Certain inflammatory biomarkers, such as interleukins, chemokines and adhesion molecules, have been associated with early and late stages of atherosclerosis. Previous studies have found that diet can influence inflammation levels, but few healthy dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet (rich in olive oil, nuts, whole grain, fruits and vegetables, and seafood consumption, and light on dairy and red/processed meat), have shown lower concentrations of some inflammatory biomarkers and lower heart disease risk. There has been less research focused on whether long-term adherence to proinflammatory diets are associated with increased rates of heart disease or stroke.

Researchers used the men and women from the Nurses’ Health Studies I and II starting from 1986 and included up to 32 years of follow up. After excluding participants with missing diet information or previously diagnosed heart disease, stroke or cancer, over 210,000 participants were included in the analysis. The participants completed a survey every four years to ascertain dietary intake.

“Using an empirically-developed, food-based dietary index to evaluate levels of inflammation associated with dietary intake, we found that dietary patterns with higher inflammatory potential were associated with an increased rate of cardiovascular disease,” said Jun Li, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Our study is among the first to link a food-based dietary inflammatory index with long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.”

The food-based proinflammatory dietary index based off 18 pre-defined food groups that together show the strongest associations with an increase in inflammatory biomarkers. After controlling for other risk factors such as BMI, physical activity, family history of heart disease and multivitamin use, the participants consuming proinflammatory diets had a 46% higher risk of heart disease and 28% higher risk of stroke, compared to those consuming anti-inflammatory diets.

The researchers suggested consuming foods with higher levels of antioxidants and fiber to help combat inflammation: Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, cabbage, arugula), yellow vegetables (pumpkin, yellow peppers, beans, carrots), whole grains, coffee, tea and wine. The researchers also suggested limiting intake of refined sugars and grains, fried foods, sodas, and restricting processed, red and organ meat. These foods are among the major contributors to the proinflammatory dietary index.

“A better knowledge of health protection provided by different foods and dietary patterns, mainly their anti-inflammatory properties, should provide the basis for designing even healthier dietary patterns to protect against heart disease,” said Ramon Estruch, MD, PhD, senior consultant in the department of internal medicine at Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, Spain, and author of an accompanying editorial comment. “When choosing foods in our diet, we should indeed beware of their proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory potential!”

Incorporating Walnuts into Diet Decreases Inflammation

In another study, researchers assessed how incorporating walnuts into an individual’s usual diet would improve inflammatory biomarkers. Previous studies have found that regular nut consumption is associated with lower heart disease risk and lower overall cholesterol; however, there has been limited research linking nut consumption with less inflammation in the body. A total of 634 participants were assigned either a diet without walnuts or a diet with regularly incorporated walnuts (about 30-60 grams per day). After a follow up period of two years, those who ate a diet with walnuts showed significantly reduced levels of inflammation in the body in 6 out of 10 of the inflammatory biomarkers tested.

“The anti-inflammatory effect of long-term consumption of walnuts demonstrated in this study provides novel mechanistic insight for the benefit of walnut consumption on heart disease risk beyond that of cholesterol lowering,” said Montserrant Cofán, PhD, lead author of the study and a researcher at the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain.

Source: The American College of Cardiology

Anti-inflammatory Diet

Barbara Gordon wrote . . . . . . . . .

Did you know that research has found a link between inflammation and increased risk for chronic diseases? And, these studies suggest that heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity might be due to chronic inflammation.

Inflammation is a Normal Body Response to Promote Healing

Inflammation is a sign that the immune system is fighting infection. The infection may be related to germs, wounds, allergens, toxins or other causes.

Typically, we think of signs of inflammation as redness, swelling and pain. But, sometimes inflammation can happen within our bodies. Someone with bronchitis has a lung infection. The lungs may become inflamed. And, this may be a sign that their immune system is working to fight that infection. Eexcess body fat may promote changes in the body cells that promote chronic inflammation. The signs of inflammation may not be obvious. For others, chronic inflammation may relate to a problem with their immune system.

Whatever the cause, long term chronic inflammation may damage the body’s DNA, increasing the risk for cancer.

What We Know and Don’t Know about Foods and Inflammation

Various anti-inflammatory diets are promoted online. But, researchers are still figuring out how what we eat may affect inflammation. So far, it appears that eating a variety of nutritious foods may help reduce inflammation in the body. What we eat may help prevent and keep chronic inflammation in check. And, a healthy eating plan provides nutrients that help keep your immune system working well:

  • Fruits and vegetables contain natural components called phytonutrients that may help protect against inflammation.
  • Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, may help keep inflammation at bay.

Foods high in saturated fats may increase inflammation. Plus, highly processed foods and other foods with trans fat also may be inflammatory.

Anti-inflammatory Superfoods

Dark chocolate (more than 70-percent cocoa), red wine, green tea, turmeric and ginger are thought to help reduce inflammation. But, many of the findings of the anti-inflammatory effects of these foods comes from studies done with lab animals. We cannot form conclusions about how these foods impact inflammation in people at this time. And, it is not yet known how much and how often “anti-inflammatory” foods must be eaten to combat inflammation. For now, the best advice is to adopt a healthy eating style.

Five Dietary Approaches That May Help Reduce Inflammation

Are you looking for ways to help combat inflammation? Consider the following five steps:

Step 1: Make Fruits and Vegetables Half Your Plate

  • Aim to include vegetables and fruits with every meal
  • Eat a variety of brightly colored vegetables and fruits:


    • All forms count — including fresh, frozen, canned and dried. Just be sure to look for products with no added sugars and lower amounts of sodium.
    • Focus on vegetables from each subgroup weekly, including dark green, red and orange vegetables, as well as beans and peas.

Step 2: Be Smart about Protein

  • Don’t overdo the protein — five to six ounce equivalents per day is appropriate for most people that are moderately active. And, when it comes to protein, select fatty fish containing omega-3s a couple of times each week.
  • Enjoy meatless meals with tofu, tempeh, and legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils.
  • Choose leaner protein foods, such as skinless chicken or turkey or lean cuts of beef and pork.
  • Include low-fat or fat-free dairy products, like skim milk and yogurt, which are lower in saturated fat.
  • Minimize highly processed foods such as deli meat, bacon, and sausage.

Step3: Choose Healthy Fats

  • Use monounsaturated fats, including olive, safflower, sunflower, canola, peanut and avocado oils.
  • Eat omega-3 rich foods:


    • Enjoy salmon or another fatty fish two to three times per week.
    • Snack on nuts, such as walnuts.
    • Toss ground flaxseed, chia seeds and hemp seeds into salads and other dishes.
  • Minimize highly processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils and high amounts of saturated fat.

Step 4: Select Whole Grains

  • Choose whole-grain flours and cereals more often, rather than those made with refined flour.
  • Include a variety of whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, millet and wheat berries.

Step 5: Experiment with Fresh Herbs and Spices

  • Infuse flavor into your dishes by adding fresh herbs.
  • Spice up your recipes by experimenting with spices.

Other Lifestyle Factors

Though what you eat is important, it’s not the only factor that impacts chronic inflammation. To help stay healthy:

  • Get adequate sleep — both quality and duration of sleep directly impact inflammation.
  • Be active — regular physical activity has anti-inflammatory effects. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day on most days of the week.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight — excess body fat could contribute to increased inflammation.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Anti-inflammatory Plant-based Diet Helps Reduce Gingivitis

A plant-based whole food diet reduced gingivitis in a recent randomized trial published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.

For the trial, 30 patients with gingivitis were randomized to an experimental and a control group. The experimental group changed to a diet low in processed carbohydrates and animal proteins, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin D, antioxidants, plant nitrates, and fibers for four weeks. The control group did not change their diet. All participants suspended the use of dental floss and other tools to clean between their teeth.

Although there were no differences regarding plaque values, the experimental group experienced a significant reduction in gingival bleeding. They also showed an increase in vitamin D values and weight loss.

“Study results clearly demonstrate the possibility to naturally reduce gingivitis by an optimized diet that also promotes general health. According to this, dental teams should address dietary habits and give adequate recommendations in the treatment of gingivitis, since it might be a side effect of a pro-inflammatory western diet,” said lead author Dr. Johan Woelber, of the University of Freiburg, in Germany.

Source: Science Daily

Anti-inflammatory Diet

Madeleine Howell wrote . . . . . . .

Inflammatory foods could increase the risk of aggressive breast cancer, researchers suggested this week, and a new study points the finger firmly at processed convenience foods and ‘lazy cooking’.

It found that women who ate the most inflammatory foods were 39 per cent more likely to develop any form of breast cancer than those who ate the least.

Food products suspected to increase inflammation include the likes of ready-made pasta sauces, as well as industrially produced bakery goods like bread and pies.

Presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago, the study was led by Professor Adela Castello at Instituto du Salud Carlos III in Spain.

So far, so concerning: but if our favourite high-street pastries (guilty) and the jars of curry sauce (cheater) in the cupboard are off the menu, what should we eat to avoid inflammation? What are the benefits of cooking from scratch? And what exactly is inflammation, anyway?

It’s not all bad: according to the Harvard Medical School, there is some evidence that food can also be used to counter inflammation.

“Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

So, by eating well, you can actually reduce inflammation – rather than exacerbate it with a poor diet. Plus, as anyone who has ever experienced the aroma of a home cooked garlic and red wine sauce will attest, meals prepared from scratch are excellent news for our taste buds.

And Professor Adela Castello’s caveat is that the new findings shouldn’t mean we become “obsessed” with avoiding inflammatory foods: “Eating processed meat, fast foods or sweets once or twice a week probably won’t hurt you. The general advice for healthy dietary habits also serves for cancer prevention,” she emphasises.

“Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains daily; fish, legumes and nuts three or four times a week; and red meats once or twice per week.

“Avoid as much as possible processed meats, convenience and fast food, industrial bakery, sweets, sugared drinks and high-fat dairy products. And use olive oil as the main dietary fat for cooking and dressing. Avoiding alcohol consumption is also recommended.”

For an eating plan which adheres closely to this guidance, you might consider the Mediterranean diet (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, with a moderate amount of cheese, wine, fish, eggs and meat).

There are also lessons to be learnt from the Icelandic diet (rapeseed oil, wild berries, root vegetables and fish), or even the mid-Victorian peasant diet (milk, oats, fish, potatoes, apples and meat once a week). It’s no coincidence that all three are low in processed foods, but rich in an abundance of fresh produce.

A decrease in the risk of inflammatory disease isn’t the only welcome side effect of lifestyle tweaks such as this: a diet low in processed foods and rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains may also improve your mood and combat depression.

“The best advice from a dietary perspective is the same whether you have a chronic inflammatory condition or not: to have a healthy dietary pattern and to maintain a body mass index within the normal range,” suggests Melanie Hargraves, registered dietician and spokesperson for the British Nutrition Foundation.

“A healthy dietary pattern is one which contains 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day, is high in fibre and lean protein sources (such as chicken, beans and pulses or fish, including one portion of oily fish per week) and is low in saturated fats, salt, free sugars and alcohol.” Hargraves also points out that excess body weight can contribute to inflammation and exacerbate symptoms of a chronic inflammatory disease. “For most people the advice is simple: eating well, keeping active and maintaining a normal body weight,” she emphasises.

Here, we suggest the anti-inflammatory ingredients to add to your shopping list (and the culprits to strike off) without further ado – along with some delicious tips and recipe suggestions to try at home, courtesy of Telegraph Food. Who are you calling a lazy cook?

What can I eat? Foods to fight inflammation

Here, we pick out the hero foods believed to alleviate inflammation

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are said to be high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. They’re also believed to promote a good night’s sleep. Check out Christelle Huet-Gomez’s easy ‘mug crumble’ recipes for fun, simple ways to incorporate them into your diet.

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables including cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower were found to reduce inflammation in a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. We suggest Stephen Harris’s crowd-pleasing recipe for Marmite-roasted cauliflower with walnuts and grapes to get you started.

Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are not only said to be anti-inflammatory, but research has also suggested that they’re good for your memory. Pass the veg.

Olive oil

According to wine columnist Victoria Moore, the best olive oil is often made by wine producers. It’s extracted from pressed whole olives, and is a staple of the celebrated Mediterranean diet.

Professor Adela Castello, who led the recent study into the risks of consuming inflammatory foods, recommends using olive oil for cooking and dressing. Check out restaurateur Russell Norman’s Venetian recipes for inspiration.

Oily fish

According to Arthritis Research UK, fish oils are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties: “They significantly reduce the release of several elements that play a part in inflammation from your white blood cells,” it states. Oily fish has also been reported to delay the menopause, and reduce the risk of bowel cancer.

Opt for salmon, mackerel, tuna, anchovies and sardines, and be sure to consider Diana Henry’s new recipe ideas for salmon fillets including roast salmon 
and green beans with cornichons and mustard crumbs and salmon fillets with Indian spices and coconut – or perhaps Rick Stein’s grilled sardines with chopped green herbs.


Fresh berries such as strawberries, blueberries and cherries are said to be anti-flammatory – pick up seasonal punnets at your local market: we recommend Stephen Harris’s garden-fresh beetroot, strawberry and rose salad and Ursula Ferrigno’s chocolate, cherry and raspberry tart.


According to the Harvard Medical School, coffee contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds which may protect against inflammation. In fact, there are a number of other surprising health benefits of caffeine, including reducing the risk of Parkinson’s or diabetes. Americano, anyone?


It may sound simple, but water is understood to be anti-inflammatory. Plus, the body needs to be hydrated in order to thrive. The NHS advises that in the UK climate we should be drinking around 1-2 litres of water. That’s roughly six to eight glasses a day.

What to avoid

  • Ready meals
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Red meat
  • Ready made sauces, curries and condiments
  • Refined carbohydrates (think industrially produced bread, pastries, cakes and pies)
  • Processed meat, such as sausages

Source: The Guardian

Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug May Not Ease Chronic Fatigue Syndrome After All

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . .

A small-scale clinical trial has cast doubt upon the potential usefulness of an anti-inflammatory drug to treat chronic fatigue syndrome.

Doctors had hoped that anakinra (Kineret) — a medication for rheumatoid arthritis — also could be used to relieve symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

But after a month of daily anakinra injections, a group of 25 women reported chronic fatigue symptoms as severe as those experienced by a control group receiving placebo shots, researchers reported.

“In this carefully and well-controlled study, we were unable to show a beneficial effect,” said senior researcher Dr. Jos Van der Meer.

“Of course, this is a disappointment,” added Van der Meer, chair of internal medicine at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Anakinra treats rheumatoid arthritis by blocking interleukin-1, a biochemical produced by the immune system to create inflammation.

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome have been found to have increased levels of interleukin-1 in their bloodstream. This has fueled suspicion that the mysterious disorder might be linked in some way to inflammation, the researchers said in background notes.

In addition, previous studies have shown that arthritis patients treated with anakinra experience a dramatic decline in their fatigue levels, said Dr. Kevin Fleming, a geriatric specialist with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He wasn’t involved in the study.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is generally diagnosed as six months or more of extreme fatigue that doesn’t improve with bed rest. It generally spikes after activities requiring physical or mental energy, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health.

The debilitating disorder has no known cause, the women’s health office says, but reports have linked its onset in some to mononucleosis, flu-like illness, or a period of intense physical stress.

To test anakinra’s potential as a treatment, the researchers randomly assigned 25 women with chronic fatigue to receive daily 100-milligram injections of the drug. Another 25 women received a placebo.

After one month, there was no meaningful difference between the two groups in fatigue severity.

Other symptoms — including pain, distress, and physical and social functioning — were not appreciably different, either, according to the study authors.

“This was a potential drug that had a lot of hope, but it didn’t work in this small trial,” said Dr. Houman Danesh, director of integrative pain management at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Van der Meer suspects that anakinra didn’t work because the body couldn’t effectively deliver the drug into the brain.

“Hence, we are looking for another safe and selective [anti-inflammatory] drug, preferably a small molecule that can be taken orally and that is able to reach the brain in sufficient concentrations,” he said.

But neither Danesh nor Fleming are ready to close the door on anakinra’s usefulness. Danesh, who wasn’t involved in the research, said larger trials are needed to completely rule out anakinra as a treatment.

Meanwhile, Fleming noted that the women in this study had been long-time chronic fatigue sufferers. Perhaps anakinra could head off the onset of chronic fatigue syndrome in people who just suffered serious infection or physical stress and are at risk for developing the disorder, he said.

“It could be there’s a subgroup where if you intervene early, they might actually not develop it,” Fleming said.

Currently, no drugs have U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for chronic fatigue syndrome, according to the Office on Women’s Health.

The two leading therapies for the condition are physical exercise and a type of talk therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy, Danesh and Fleming said.

“What I do recommend for most of my patients with chronic fatigue is daily exercise, even if it’s as little as 5 to 10 minutes,” Danesh said. “That seems to have the best evidence for treatment.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help by teaching patients to recognize patterns that lead to feelings of fatigue, and training them to counter those feelings, Fleming said.

“You need to recognize your brain is actually telling you things that aren’t true,” Fleming said. “They feel horrible, but nothing horrible is happening. You can train them to recognize this.”

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Source: HealthDay

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