Our emerging understanding of the role of inflammation in major chronic diseases has brought much attention to the effect of diet on the inflammatory process. Understanding the link may help us identify specific dietary patterns and foods than can diminish chronic inflammation and improve health.
Inflammation: Helpful, harmful, or both?
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is the body’s protective response to an injury or infection. For example, acute inflammation occurs when you cut your finger. Your body dispatches white blood cells to protect the area. You may see some swelling and redness and feel pain, but this process is critical to preventing infection.
Chronic inflammation may be triggered when the body tries to rid itself of harmful substances such as toxins from smoking. Increased levels of chronic inflammation are also associated with excess fat, especially around the abdomen.
Low-grade chronic inflammation may damage blood vessels, arteries, nerves, and the intestines. It can eventually lead to chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and some diseases of the bowel.
Can diet impact chronic inflammation?
Looking at markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF- α), researchers have found that diet can influence inflammation. There is also a great deal of evidence showing that diet impacts the risk of chronic disease, including heart disease and diabetes. Is inflammation the means by which diet influences disease risk?
Pro-inflammatory diets may increase risk of cardiovascular disease
A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) examined whether pro-inflammatory diets are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). (CVD includes non-fatal and fatal heart attack, and fatal and non-fatal stroke.) The researchers assessed the diets of more than 200,000 women and men enrolled in