Inflammation is the body’s biological response to repair tissue and initiate healing after injurious stimuli has damaged tissue. When an irritant begins to damage tissue, a chemical response ensues. This response causes significant signs: Pain, Heat, Redness, Swelling and loss of function. Inflammation is how we survive and heal. Without this natural response, disease would take over our body. Inflammation is necessary; however, it can also be a serious problem, especially when the condition becomes chronic.
The inflammatory response is the same regardless of the location or the stimulus that caused injury. After trauma occurs hemodynamic changes occur along with the production of exudate or edema. In acute inflammation, the tissue initiates a repair and remodeling event to return tissue to a normal state. If the inflammation fails to resolve, or inflammatory mediators remained elevated, the tissue will begin a cyclical process of a continued inflammatory response; this is when chronic inflammation occurs.
Chronic inflammation is a common factor that may contribute to development of chronic diseases (1). Many diseases are now classified as inflammatory diseases, such as, vasculitis, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and arthritis. Elevated C-reactive protein (CPR) in the blood is a sign of inflammation. Individuals with chronically elevated CRP are three times more likely to have a heart attack than those who have low –levels. Now, studies are finding a correlation between chronic inflammation, chronic disease and poor diet.
Researchers have found the diet has an influence on inflammation. Specifically, excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, low dietary fiber intake, and a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratios are strongly associated with the production of proinflammatory molecules (2). Additionally, antioxidant’s decrease inflammation, and the low intake of antioxidants contributes to a proinflammatory state exacerbates disease (2). One large study compared a Western diet and a paleo-like diet. The western diet contained more red meat, refined carbohydrates and saturated fat. The Western diet group had greater levels of inflammatory markers, including CRP and E-selectin (3). Those following the paleo-like diet had a significant decrease of inflammatory markers (3).
In addition, the Mediterranean diet, which is comprised of whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids was found to reduce inflammatory markers compared to baseline levels and eliminate metabolic syndrome after two years of following a Mediterranean diet and exercise (4). Cytokines, which are another key for chronic inflammation, are released by adipocytes. Thus general fat loss can reduce the expression of cytokines.
Clinical studies in adults with high cholesterol have shown that nuts lower LDL-cholesterol while improving the overall blood lipid profile (5). Frequent nut and seed consumption is associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP), IL-6 and fibrinogen, even after adjusting for confounding factors(6). Consuming a high-almond diet (68 g/d per 8386 kJ) for four weeks significantly decreased serum E-selectin compared with the control diet in healthy men and women (6).
Chronic inflammation is linked to chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and arthritis. The rise of these diseases over the past few decades may be linked to the Western diet of saturated fats, low antioxidants, and refined carbohydrates. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish and nuts as well as whole grains and high fiber have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation markers in the blood. Diet plays a much larger role than previously thought in the prevention of chronic disease. Are you ready to change your diet?
- Stehouwer CDA, Gall M-A. Twisk JWR, Knudsen E. Emeis JJ. Parving H-H. Increased urinary albumin excretion, endothelial dysfunction and chronic low-grade inflammation in type 2 diabetes: progressive, interrelated, and independently associated with risk of death. Diabetes. 2002;51(4): 1157-1165.
- Neustadt J. Western Diet and Inflammation. IMCJ. Vol. 10: 2 Apr/May 2011.
- Lopez-Garcia E, Schulze MB, Fung TT, et al. Major dietary patterns are related to plasma concentrations of markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. Am JClin Nutr. 2004;80(4):1029-1035.
- Neustadt J. The food pyramid and disease prevention. Integr Med. 2005;4(6):14-19.
- Mukuddem-Petersen J, Oosthuizen W & Jerling J. A systematic review of the effects of nuts on blood lipid profiles in humans. J Nutr. 135: 2005. 2082–2089.
- Rajaram, S, Connell, KM, and Sabate´ J. Effect of almond-enriched high-monounsaturated fat diet on selected markers of inflammation: a randomised, controlled, crossover study. BR J of Nut. 2010: 103, 907–912.