Diets high in red and processed meat, refined grains and sugary beverages, which have been associated with increased inflammation in the body, can increase the future risk of heart disease and stroke compared to diets packed with anti-inflammatory foods. That’s according to a researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The diet-inflammation link
Chronic inflammation has been shown to play an important role in the development of heart disease and stroke. Certain inflammatory immune cells have been associated with early and late stages of atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries).
Intermittent bouts of inflammation are protective. This type of inflammation is the response of your immune system as it works to heal wounds and fight infection.
If the process persists, however, excessive inflammatory compounds are released that can silently damage the body and increase illness.
Previous studies have found that diet can influence inflammation levels, but few healthy dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, have shown lower concentrations of some inflammatory biomarkers and lower heart disease risk.
And there has been less research on whether long-term adherence to inflammatory diets are associated with increased rates of heart disease or stroke.
About the study
Researchers followed over 210,00 healthy men and women for 32 years. The study participants completed a survey every four years to determine dietary intake.
The researchers used an evidence-based “proinflammatory dietary index” tool to evaluate levels of inflammation associated with dietary intake. They found that eating patterns with a higher inflammatory potential were associated with an increased rate of cardiovascular disease.
After controlling for other risk factors such as body weight physical activity, family history of heart disease and multivitamin use, the participants consuming inflammatory diets had a 46% higher risk of heart disease and 28% higher risk of stroke, compared to those consuming anti-inflammatory diets.
Anti-inflammatory diet components
The researchers suggested consuming foods with higher levels of antioxidants and fibre help combat inflammation: Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, cabbage, arugula), yellow vegetables (pumpkin, yellow peppers, beans, carrots), whole grains, coffee, tea and wine.
They 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 an inflammatory dietary index.
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