The information on inflammation: science on the anti-inflammatory diet

Health, health & wellbeing, health & wellness, Low Back Pain, nature & science, nutrition, science & nature, Wellbeing

Bitumen on a sweaty, sultry summer’s day.  Doesn’t get much hotter, right? Wrong!  Right now the anti-inflammatory diet is hotter than Hades. Heck, it’s hotter than Hansel, who as you know, is so hot right know.  As the anti-inflammatory diet’s popularity reaches fever pitch, we ask ourselves is this just another fad diet, or is it the answer to all the our problems?

zoolander-hansel-so-hot-right-now

Why?

Before I even answer that question, why should you even consider consuming an anti-inflammatory diet? Well, inflammation in one way or another, has been found to be consistently associated with nearly every single chronic disease.  However, just because something is associated with something else doesn’t mean it is definitely the cause.  But it is a cause for concern! So, that brings us to the age old question, does it work?

TopAntiInflammatoryFoods

Cardiovascular health:

The Mediterranean diet, which is remarkably similar to the anti-inflammatory diet, has been demonstrated to decrease the risk of heart attack and other major cardiovascular complications by 30%. Also, unsurprisingly, it improves markers of cardiovascular health such as blood pressure (1). Promising signs!

A review paper of multiple studies found that the nutrients promoted in the anti-inflammatory diet are consistent with those that have improved outcomes in patients with peripheral artery disease, another cardiovascular condition. Also, the anti-inflammatory diet does not contain the nutrients that are harmful to this condition (2). You beauty!  So, while we can’t directly prove that the anti-inflammatory diet is effective in improving cardiovascular health the results look very promising – even sexy, some might say!

heart-health

Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis):

A hallmark of inflammatory bowel disease is…. you guessed it, inflammation.  So you’d think an anti-inflammatory diet would probably work. And it appears it does. A study found that 100% of individuals suffering from inflammatory bowel disease who followed the anti-inflammatory diet decreased medication use after following the anti-inflammatory diet. All 100% also had a reduction in symptoms (3). Similarly, in another study on Crohn’s disease patients, the anti-inflammatory diet improved markers of inflammation. Shocking, I know. (4). So again, it looks really, really promising but there isn’t the stone cold science there just yet to make us 100% confident in this diet’s effects.

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Musculoskeletal health:

What about musculoskeletal problems – back pain, neck pain, broken bones? Funny you should ask. In a group of patients with low back pain, supplementation with fish oil tablets was compared to taking anti-inflammatory drugs (Voltaren, neurofen, etc.). It was found that fish oil supplementation was as effective as taking anti-inflammatory drugs for decreasing back pain (5).  While fish oil tablets aren’t the same as consuming an anti-inflammatory diet, they provide one of the key nutrients of the anti-inflammatory diet: omega-3 fatty acids. Good stuff.

Somewhat similarly, in a group of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, consuming an anti-inflammatory diet decreased pain and symptoms compared to consuming a normal western diet. It also augmented the effects of consuming fish oil tablets (6).  Good again.

Last, but most certainly not least, consuming an anti-inflammatory diet decreased inflammation in ankylosing spondylitis patients and reduced the number of flare ups and time to flare up for this condition. Ankylosing spondylitis is an autoimmune disorder where the spine stiffens – prolonged systemic inflammation is present in this condition (7).  So, all in all, the anti-inflammatory diet looks good at managing chronic musculoskeletal complaints where inflammation is present.

Human back with a visible pain

Is it healthful? 

For inflammatory gastrointestinal issues, chronic musculoskeletal conditions and cardiovascular health it looks like the anti-inflammatory diet helps.  There has not yet been enough good quality research to 100% confirm this, but if you look below, it’s an extremely healthy diet which ain’t going to do any harm. Give it a try!

Our verdict: Slightly healthful. Likely to be proven moderately to very healthful with further research.

What to eat if you’re going anti-inflammatory?

1. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

2. Eat good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or fish oil supplements and walnuts.

3. Eat plenty of whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat (see this link, to determine whether its a wholegrain or not – packaging can be misleading).

4. Eat lean protein sources such as chicken; cut back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods.

5. Minimize saturated and trans fats. Except maybe a spoon of coconut oil daily!

6. Avoid refined foods and processed foods.

7. Consume alcohol and caffeine in moderation

8. Eat a variety of spices, especially ginger and curry.

I hope this has been healthful.

Anti-Inflammatory Pyrami001

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24 thoughts on “The information on inflammation: science on the anti-inflammatory diet

  1. Dieters have been calling for cutting down on red meat for, well since they were eating brontosaurus burgers. How do they propose reversing the kidney failure and other severe illnesses associated with iron deficiency? Shall we take a manufactured, inorganic, chemically produced supplement, or just eat a steak?

    Interestingly, foul is not a good source of iron. Without pharmaceutically manufactured supplements, iron deficiencies can be disastrous, especially for women.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi again Bgddyjim,

      I hope you’re well.

      Many seafoods and poultry items are as rich and in some cases richer in iron than beef. Also, various non-heme sources of iron (plant based) can be well absorbed with simultaneous vitamin C consumption. So I think those concerns are unwarranted.

      Furthermore, in Australia red meat consumption is five times that of the recommended intake (http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/reduced-red-meat-consumption-aids-health-and-the-environment/6286218). I imagine these sorts of averages are similar for the western world. Excess red meat consumption is linked with various cancers, so the data seems to indicate that the benefits outweigh the risks.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I respectfully disagree, as does my doctor. While too much of anything can be bad (even a diet too heavy in veggies), red meat plays an important part in the diet. A very close friend of mine, just a few years ago, quit red meat at the urging of his wife, for many of the reasons you cite… His kidneys were failing within a year. His doctor’s prescription was a couple of steaks a week. He’s back to normal health.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You raise a fair point, although I will have to also respectfully disagree.

        Studies have proven on multiple occasions that vegetarians who eat a varied diet are at no greater risk of iron deficiency than those that eat a normal western diet (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25369923/?i=20&from=iron%20vegetarian). The anti-inflammatory diet is a balanced, iron rich diet, thus minimising such a risk. This study, which has been conducted by multiple doctors and reviewed the work of various other doctors, outweighs the opinion of a single doctor and the experiences of a single person. Regardless of this, your friend may have completely restricted meat without replacing this with another iron source.

        I should note that the anti-inflammatory diet suggests cutting down on meat, but not completely cutting it out. Current levels of red meat consumption are excessive and associated with: obesity (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24815945/?i=27&from=red%20meat%20review), colorectal cancer (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24847855/?i=24&from=red%20meat%20review) and diabetes (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25838035/?i=3&from=red%20meat%20diabetes).

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Mmm… See, it’s not just one doctor, it’s the entire medical profession that has, since people started eating “plant based diets”, recommended industrialized supplements to make up what the diet lacks, which is a considerable amount of nutrients, protein, iron and a veritable slew of others. It’s only in the age of the diet that some have softened on their attitudes towards vegetarianism.

        That said, you are right, the anti-inflammatory diet, which is yet another fad, only recommends only cutting down on red meat and many reasonable people, not me but many, should have no problem ditching the bacon for an avocado.

        Finally, I highly doubt that red meat “causes” any of those three. A sedentary lifestyle causes those diseases. Eating too much tofu would cause just as much obesity as red meat if it didn’t taste so nasty. The problem is that steak and bacon actually taste good so people tend to over-indulge. 😁

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I personally like meat and won’t stop eating it and as you’re saying plant-based diets pose a risk of iron deficiency. However, if a thoughtful plant based diet is eaten, it’s proven to provide sufficient iron and other nutrients. Furthermore, if every person in the western world were to eat a plant based diet with supplemental iron, the benefits – decreases in lifestyle disease prevalence – would far outweigh any negative effects of the supplemental iron.

        I agree that the anti-inflammatory diet is a fad. But it essentially follows healthy eating guidelines, indicating it is not a dangerous one.

        Again you are right, there is no data to identify cause and effect between meat and said disease states. It could well be the taste and overeating, although researchers currently propose it’s the Interaction between the fat, salt and nitrates.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Ah, and therein lies the rub… A thoughtful plant-based diet. What do people eat today? Is that thoughtful? The problem is the thoughtful part… You’re relying on people who aren’t smart enough to not get fat, to eat a diet that, unless done carefully, can actually be dangerous.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Haha very good point. Although I would argue, and the scientific data seems to support, that the benefits of even a poorly thought out plant-based diet by far outweigh the risks. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24964573/?i=13&from=vegetarian%20deficiency. Additionally, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, America’s largest body of Dieticians standpoint mirrors this view. They state that: while the vegetarian diet poses risks of nutritional deficiency, the public health benefits of resultant decreases in lifestyle disease would outweigh this, as nutritional deficiencies represent a very small percentage of western morbidity and mortality, whereas lifestyle diseases represent a large percentage (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25911342/?i=1&from=vegetarian%20deficiency).

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Yes, well my mother happens to be a nurse who has taken care of kids whose parents thought the data showed a poorly planned out vegetarian or vegan (mostly the latter) outweighs the risks. She saw what happened when the data was wrong… And it is.

        We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one. I’ll shoot and eat squirrels in my backyard before I adopt or advocate for a plant-based diet.

        Sorry if I was a Richard about this whole thing… Especially when you’re not a vegetarian! My bad. Your blog so please, have the last word. My apologies again.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Hahaha yep let’s agree to disagree!

        No, you weren’t a “Richard” at all! Quite the opposite. I think it’s great to have a friendly debate. Despite all I said, I’m going to keep eating meat anyway, because it’s tasty.

        Chat to you soon!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Let Food HEAL Your Body! and commented:
    I’ve never heard of this diet, but it looks like a great tool to add to our health quest.

    Y’all know that I don’t believe in 100% strict adherence to any diet because it goes against our nature (and also cause it leaves no room for fun!).

    Find one or two things that you liked about this diet and make it a part of your lifestyle for lasting success.

    Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks heaps, Conor. I believe there have been some poor quality studies finding vitamin b12, b6, vitamin D and folate to be somewhat effective in managing inflammation. Although I’m not aware of any data on magnesium or zinc – it well could exist though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting, thanks so much for the reply. I know that in 2014, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of a meta-analysis which revealed an association between increased dietary magnesium and lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and that in 2010 the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found reductions in markers of oxidative stress and inflammation among those who supplemented with zinc.

        Just wondering if you had any thoughts?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s a pleasure, Conor. Fantastic, I wasn’t aware of that paper, so I appreciate you sharing that.

        I think that supplementation could certainly play a role in reducing inflammation, particularly considering that the diet might be quite hard for some to abide by. Although, the diet would probably be optimum. What your thoughts on the matter?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah I thought they were some interesting results alright. Would be interested to find more info now mind you.

    Can only really echo your sentiments, diet is key but I think supplementation can help speed up the process of bringing down an inflamed system.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha whoops! Thanks for pointing that out. When I tried the anti-inflammatory diet I was pouring tune turmeric into water and drinking it, as my curry making skills are poor. Thanks for pointing that out

      Like

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