The Root of What Ails Us: Inflammation?
Scientists studying link between diet, chronic inflammation, and disease
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2012 10:08 AM CDT
Updated Jul 21, 2012 7:00 PM CDT
The Stethoscope   (©Alex E. Proimos)

(Newser) – Diabetes, Alzheimer's, cancer. They may seem like wildly different diseases, but they share a common thread, reports the Wall Street Journal: Each has been tied to chronic inflammation. And that has scientists now studying whether inflammation can be battled with certain foods, rather than drugs. The Journal gives a quick primer: Inflammation is our body's natural way of coping with injury and irritants. But when there's no end to those irritants—say, because a person continues to smoke, or eat an unhealthy diet—inflammation can become chronic, and a mess of problems can follow (damage to arteries, insulin resistance, stroke, and on and on).

Historically, the war against inflammation has been waged with drugs like statins. But as more and more research points to a link between abdominal fat (whose cells pump out cytokines, molecules that encourage inflammation to kick in) and poor diets and inflammation, scientists are reviewing whether everything from dairy foods to omega-3-rich salmon can guard against the condition. Recent studies have calculated the levels of C-reactive protein in the blood; it's an indicator of inflammation lurking in the body, and some studies have shown that eating more dietary fiber, for instance, can lower it. But one doctor tells the Journal that there's no proof that a particular diet will work magic. "If you weigh 300 pounds and eat healthy, the weight will still counter any beneficial foods you are eating," he says.

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Showing 3 of 41 comments
Jul 22, 2012 12:19 PM CDT
I worked at a health food store run by a clinical nutritionist and he was always harping about this. It's funny how popular science is catching up with what we' heath nuts' have known for years.
Jul 22, 2012 12:25 AM CDT
I really dislike it when doctors dismiss changing to a good diet won't help someone even if they are heavy because when someone who is heavy changes to a good diet, they slowly start to drop weight. A good diet which reduces inflammation means you cut out sugar, white starches including white potatoes and white flour, all refined and processed foods. If you can't afford fresh vegetables, buy frozen that aren't prepared with any sauces or additives. If you buy any health bars make sure you aren't getting any with sugars, sweetners, or brown rice syrup. You can find energy bars made with fruits such as dates and figs to sweeten them. Larabars are one of the energy bars that are made with dates instead of sugars. Avoid all artificial sweetners. Frozen blueberries, rasberries, and strawberries are less expensive than fresh but right now they are in season and quite often not as expensive if you buy them at your farmers market if your town has one. Be careful though that you don't get the frozen fruits that have added sugars. There are canned fruits that are packed in juice instead of sugar. Grant it, they aren't as healthy as fresh but they are still fruit and fiber if that is all you can afford but make sure you get the canned fruit that is packed in juice not sugar. The drained juice can make really good toppings for whole grain French toast if you use corn starch as a thickner. Then add a lot of fish which is brain food to the diet instead of beef which has a lot of bad stuff for the body and you've done your body a lot of good. Switching to one of the plain almond, cocunut, or soy milks is a great help too. Cocunut milk helps reduce GERD for anyone who has a problem with that. Using a tablespoon of honey and apple cider vinegar in a cup of hot water every morning is a good treatment for those with GERD too. Adding lots of fiber to the diet and lowering fried foods and heavy, fatty meats all the time elimates a lot of the problem as well. Add what my good friend Mary Todd Coleman referred to as 'A daily constitutional' - a good walk - and you should start feeling a lot better within six weeks to eight weeks. By the way, Mary lived to be 91 back in the 70s so I think the lady from Brockton, Massachusetts knew what she was talking about.
Jul 21, 2012 9:12 PM CDT
Olive oil has great anti-inflammatory properties.