Are There Pro and Anti Inflammatory Foods?
Inflammation occurs as a normal reaction when there is any injury to the body. Acute inflammation is a nonspecific response to any kind of injury and is usually characterized by swelling, heat, and redness, and pain.
All of us have experienced these obvious symptoms at some time. Most of the time, inflammation is a lifesaver that enables our bodies to fend off various disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites. Then just as quickly, the process subsides and healing begins.
Every once in a while, however, the whole process does not shut down on cue, as it should. In any event, inflammation becomes chronic rather than temporary. When that occurs, the body turns on itself with inflammatory effects that seem to underlie a wide variety of diseases, ranging from heart disease and cancer to arthritis. Other diseases where chronic inflammation may be implicated are Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease to name a few.
Lately, there has been growing interest in the role of diet in this inflammatory response and articles and books decry the assumed hazards of pro-inflammatory and promote the claimed benefits of anti-inflammatory foods. How can compounds in foods help fight inflammation or themselves be considered inflammatory?
- Providing antioxidants to reduce the damage caused by free radicals that are produced in normal metabolism or due to external environmental stresses. The accumulated damage to cells or DNA known as oxidative stress can trigger diseases, for example tumor initiation or the formation of atherosclerotic plaques
- Certain foods called prebiotics support protective gut bacteria that can tame inflammation in the colon. Some examples are beans, onions, garlic and chickpeas.
- Obesity is associated with increasing inflammation in the body. Fat cells secrete interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor that can increase inflammation. In addition, weight gain decrease an anti-inflammatory hormone called adiponectin. When weight loss (even 5-10% loss) occurs, the inflammation factors decrease.
- Certain foods contain phytochemicals called polyphenols that fight inflammation.
- Check out the list of foods high in polyphenols HERE.
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-6, omega-3) can influence the production of eisosanoids that produce anti and pro inflammatory hormones. Check out a previous post HERE.
Foods that can cause inflammation:
There are no surprises here. The list:
- Refined carbohydrates, i.e. the white foods like white bread and baked goods.
- Fried foods
- Sugar sweetened beverages
- Red and processed meats
- Margarines, shortening and lard
Foods that fight inflammation:
- Olive oil
- Green leafy vegetables
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, and sardines)
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, cherries) and oranges
Dietary patterns may he anti-inflammatory. When compared to a low fat diet, a Mediterranean Diet decreased inflammatory factors (IL-6 and C-reactive protein) and appeared to favor those factors that decrease our risk of cardiovascular disease.
Anti-inflammtory effects of the Mediterranean Diet: the experience of the PREDIMED Study.
Proc. Nutr. Soc. 2010, Aug.69:333-40
From the Abstract: “Compared to a low-fat diet, the Med-Diet produced favorable changes in all risk factors. Thus, participants in both Med-Diet groups reduced blood pressure, improved lipid profile and diminished insulin resistance compared to those allocated a low-fat diet. In addition, the Med-Diet supplemented with virgin olive oil or nuts showed an anti-inflammatory effect reducing serum C-reactive protein, IL-6 and endothelial and monocytary adhesion molecules and chemokines, whereas these parameters increased after the low-fat diet intervention.”