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 Root of What Ails Us: Inflammation?
The Stethoscope   (©Alex E. Proimos)

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. (More inflammation stories.)

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