- Research shows that while there are certain foods that support inflammation in the body which over time leads to heart disease and stroke, there are also healthier options that fight inflammation and yield better health outcomes.
- According to a study in the JACC, plant-based diets such as the Mediterranean diet are rich in foods that lower inflammatory risks.
- Foods found in the Mediterranean diet comprise mostly of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.
Do you ever wonder why your doctor would at some point recommend following a plant-based diet at the same time staying away from processed, refined and sugary foods?
One reason is because there are certain foods, as shown in studies that trigger inflammation, which can lead to increased risks in cardiovascular disease and stroke. In the same way, there are also whole foods and healthier proteins that control inflammation and offer better outcomes.
Experts say that many of these foods that fight inflammation and lower heart disease risks are found in the Mediterranean diet which is high in fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and healthy oils.
Now, a new study that highlights the significance of this medical wisdom appears this month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC). It suggests that consuming unhealthy diets that boost inflammation in the body is linked to higher chances of developing heart disease and stroke. Likewise, opting for plant-based diets like the Mediterranean diet shown in past studies will result in reduced inflammatory risks over time.
Based on assessed data sourced from the Nurses’ Health Studies I and II that studied over 210,000 individuals since 1986 including 32 years of follow-up, outcomes were found to be consistent between men and women across various cohorts.
“Inflammatory potential was significantly associated with a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, compared with the 20 percent of the study population consuming the most anti-inflammatory diet,” Dr. Jun Li, study lead author and research scientist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, told Healthline.
“The 20 percent of the study population consuming the most pro-inflammatory diet were 46 percent more likely to develop heart disease and 28 percent more likely to develop stroke,” she noted.
Li however stresses that additional studies are needed to further confirm the relationship between certain foods and inflammation, since the research only focused mostly on a white population of medical professionals.
“We are doing similar analysis in other cohorts with higher proportions of African American and Hispanic participants,” she added.
What’s inflammatory? What’s not?
In a country where heart disease is the top cause of death, sugary drinks, processed meats and refined grains are typical of the North American diet, all of which promote inflammation eventually leading to heart issues.
Although it is impossible to completely avoid these foods, Li says limiting intake of these foods and replacing them with plant-based or healthier sources of proteins like fish would greatly help and lower a person’s odds of developing chronic disease.
Director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver, Dr. Andrew Freeman, told Healthline that plant-based diets being better than processed foods for overall health isn’t exactly a new discovery. In fact, doctors have been recommending this to their patients for years.
“Eating a predominantly low fat, whole food, plant-based diet is really powerful,” said Freeman.
What’s the best solution to better health?
Freeman says that when he asks patients what personally motivates them, those who are parents say they want to stay healthy so they can spend more time with their children and grandchildren.
While the market is full of products that offer all sorts of supplements and pills for better health and longer life and with people willing to do anything to get healthy, Freeman says the most powerful of all of these is the ‘lifestyle medicine.’
The lifestyle ‘pill’ is simply living a healthy life that involves a predominantly plant-based diet, regular exercise, maintaining stress and good sleep.
“Those things would probably conquer the vast majority of chronic disease in this country if we were able to really implement,” he said.