The study further examines the link between inflammation and heart disease through the effects of inflammatory food consumption
Diets high in red and processed meats, refined grains, and sugary beverages, which have been linked to increased inflammation of the body, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke later on compared to diets that include anti-inflammatory foods. This is according to a study published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. A separate JACC study assessed the positive effects of consuming walnuts, an anti-inflammatory food, on reducing the risk of inflammation and heart disease.
Chronic inflammation has been shown to play an important role in the development of heart disease and stroke. Certain inflammatory biomarkers such as interleukins, chemokines, and adhesion molecules have been linked to early and late stages of atherosclerosis. Previous studies have shown that diet can affect inflammation levels, but few have healthy eating habits, such as the Mediterranean diet (high in olive oil, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and eating seafood and lightly dairy and red / processed meats) shown lower levels of some inflammatory biomarkers and a lower risk of heart disease. Fewer research has been done on whether long-term adherence to pro-inflammatory diets is linked to increased rates of heart disease or stroke.
The researchers used the men and women from Nurses' Health Studies I and II from 1986 and included up to 32 years of follow-up. After excluding participants with missing nutritional information or previously diagnosed heart disease, stroke or cancer, over 210,000 participants were included in the analysis. Participants took part in a survey every four years to determine food intake.
"Using an empirically developed, food-based nutrition index to assess the level of inflammation associated with ingestion, we found that diet patterns with higher inflammation potential were associated with increased rates of cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Jun Li, PhD. Study lead author and research scientist in the Nutrition Department at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. "Our study is among the first to link a food-based index of inflammation via diet to long-term risk of cardiovascular disease."
The food-based pro-inflammatory nutrition index is based on 18 pre-defined food groups, which together have the strongest associations with an increase in inflammatory biomarkers. After checking for other risk factors such as BMI, physical activity, family history of heart disease, and multivitamin use, participants who consumed pro-inflammatory diets had a 46% higher risk of heart disease and a 28% higher risk of stroke than those who took anti-inflammatory diets.
The researchers suggested consuming foods with higher antioxidant and fiber content to fight inflammation: leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, cabbage, arugula), yellow vegetables (pumpkin, yellow peppers, beans, carrots), whole grains, coffee , Tea and wine. The researchers also suggested limiting your intake of refined sugars and grains, fried foods, sodas and processed meats, red meats and organ meats. These foods make a significant contribution to the pro-inflammatory nutritional index.
"A better understanding of the health protection of various foods and diets, mainly their anti-inflammatory properties, should lay the foundation for developing even healthier eating habits to protect against heart disease," said Dr. Ramon Estruch, Senior Consultant at the Internal Medicine Department of the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, Spain, and author of an accompanying editorial comment. "Indeed, when choosing foods in our diet, we should be wary of their anti-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory potential!"
Incorporating walnuts into your diet reduces inflammation
In another study, researchers looked at how including walnuts in a person's usual diet would improve inflammatory biomarkers. Previous studies have shown that consuming nuts regularly is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and lower total cholesterol. However, there is limited research linking nut consumption to less inflammation in the body. A total of 634 participants were assigned either a diet without walnuts or a diet with regularly incorporated walnuts (approx. 30-60 grams per day). After a follow-up period of two years, those who ate a diet containing walnuts showed a significantly reduced rate of inflammation in the body in 6 out of 10 of the inflammatory biomarkers tested.
"The anti-inflammatory effects of long-term walnut consumption demonstrated in this study provides novel mechanistic insights into the benefits of walnut consumption for risk of heart disease beyond that of lowering cholesterol," said Montserrant Cofán, PhD, lead author of the study and a researcher on August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain.