Are certain dietary patterns associated with lower levels of inflammation?
Inflammation is a hot topic these days with numerous companies spruiking their products that can supposedly decrease inflammation. But instead of having to pop pills and potions, what if all we need to do is change the way we eat? Can your overall dietary pattern affect your level of inflammation?
I set out in my latest study (published in Nutrition Reviews) to see what dietary patterns are associated with lower levels of inflammation. I looked at studies that measured a couple of novel inflammatory biomarkers that are involved in cardiovascular disease (ie heart disease) called PAF and Lp-PLA2. First, you may be asking what is a biomarker? A biomarker is a naturally occurring molecule, gene, or characteristic by which a particular pathological or physiological process, disease, etc. can be identified. Markers can tell us if something is not going right in the body and can even help predict future cardiovascular events.
PAF is the most potent inflammatory mediator in the body. It gets released when your endothelial cells, the cells lining your arteries, get damaged. It triggers this massive cascade of inflammation. Measuring PAF can tell us if there is inflammation in the body. Lp-PLA2 is an enzyme that is attached to your LDL cholesterol. When your LDL cholesterol gets damaged or oxidised, Lp-PLA2 cleves off the damaged bit. Unfortunately the parts they cleve off mimic PAF so this also triggers more inflammation. Usually higher levels of Lp-PLA2 are associated with high levels of LDL cholesterol. It also can tell us if the plaques in your arteries are stable.
So what were the results of my study? Three main dietary patterns were shown to be associated with improved levels of these markers.
No surprise that Mediterranean diets were associated with improved levels of inflammation as there is a lot of research on the cardioprotective role of these diets. Vegetarian diets with their high levels of plant foods also showed an association with lower inflammation. And lastly, heart healthy dietary patterns were associated with improved levels. These included the DASH diet, cholesterol-lowering diets, and a dietary pattern rich in whole grains, legumes and vegetables. One thing that all the diets have in common is they are higher in fibre, rich in plant foods and low in processed foods. In fact, the one dietary pattern associated with higher levels of inflammation in my study was the western diet. The western diet is low in fibre, low in plant foods and high in processed foods.
So if you are looking to lower levels of inflammation in the body, or are at risk of cardiovascular disease, there are a number of diets you can follow to improve your health. If you would like to read the study in full click on the link below.