Inflammation is the body’s response to injury. Stub a toe and it turns red from increased blood flow. This inflammatory response produces a series of cellular processes that lead to healing. This is natural and appropriate. Chronic inflammation is another story.
Everyone is susceptible to low-grade chronic inflammation. Overweight/obesity, stress, alcohol consumption, gut dysbiosis and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis are a few of the contributors to low-grade chronic inflammation. And research is growing about the contributing role of chronic inflammation on diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementia.
I usually recommend anti-inflammatory diets for my patients, while at the same time steering them away from pro-inflammatory foods. A January 2018 article in JAMA Oncology confirmed my clinical recommendations.
The relationship between pro-inflammatory diets and colorectal cancer in men and women was the focus of this analysis. This type of cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women. The 121,050 subjects are part of two very large ongoing studies. Findings were that higher dietary inflammatory potential was associated with higher risk of developing colorectal cancer in men and women. Risk of cancer development was even higher among overweight or obese men and lean women.
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The foods that were categorized as pro-inflammatory were processed and red meat, refined grains, colas and sugary drinks, low-calorie drinks and tomatoes. Intake of dark green and yellow vegetables, sweet potatoes, beer, wine, tea and coffee, fruit juice and pizza were related to lower concentrations of inflammatory markers. I do not quite understand the tomato and pizza finding, I am just reporting.
It is in everyone’s best nutritional interest to make a majority of their foods anti-inflammatory. I translate this to eat more vegetables. There is no downside and benefits extend beyond cancer protection. Vegetables are natural diuretics, nutrient packed and low in sodium. To help with planning an anti-inflammatory diet check out Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory pyramid at http://hrld.us/2ExYZcl.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.