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Chronic Inflammation: a vital health concern

The Bugle App

Donna Portland

08 June 2024, 11:00 PM

Chronic Inflammation: a vital health concern

Scientific research highlights the danger of chronic, low-grade inflammation, which contributes to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and various other health conditions. With three out of five deaths attributed to inflammation-related diseases globally, the urgency to address this issue cannot be overstated.

When the body detects foreign elements like invading microbes, plant pollen, or chemicals, the immune system springs into action, initiating a process known as inflammation.

While intermittent bouts of inflammation serve to protect against threats, persistent inflammation -occurring even in the absence of imminent danger -poses a significant risk.

Chronic inflammation is increasingly linked to many prevalent diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's.

Medical experts advocate for an anti-inflammatory diet as an effective strategy to effectively combat inflammation. Choosing foods with anti-inflammatory properties can potentially reduce the risk of illness. Conversely, consistently consuming inflammatory foods may exacerbate the disease process.

Dr. Frank Hu, from the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, emphasises the pivotal role of dietary choices in inflammation management. He asserts, "Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects."

To minimise inflammation, it is advisable to reduce or avoid certain foods known to trigger inflammatory responses, such as refined carbohydrates, fried foods, sugary beverages, red and processed meats, and unhealthy fats. Not surprisingly, these same foods are generally considered bad for our health. Unhealthy foods also contribute to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for inflammation. Yet in several studies, even after researchers took obesity into account, the link between foods and inflammation remained, which suggests weight gain isn't the sole driver. 

"Some of the food components or ingredients may have independent effects on inflammation over and above increased caloric intake," Dr Hu says.

So what foods should we be eating? An anti-inflammatory diet should prioritise foods rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, such as tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, and select fruits like strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges. These dietary components have been linked to reduced inflammation markers and lower risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Incorporating coffee, which contains anti-inflammatory compounds, into one's diet may also provide protective benefits against inflammation.

For overall inflammation reduction, adopting a healthy diet is paramount. The Mediterranean diet, characterised by its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils, aligns closely with the principles of anti-inflammatory eating.

In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health. 

“A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life," Dr. Hu says.

Photo source: Harvard Health