Counteract chronic inflammation, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity ... by eating! In particular, whole grains that should always be included in your daily diet have proved to be truly beneficial, even more than fruits and vegetables. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research published in the journal JAMA Network Open by a team of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York (Shivakoti et al, JAMA Netw Open, 2022).
The problem of inflammation
Inflammation is the way our body copes with external threats, such as bacteria, viruses or toxins. However, once the problem has disappeared, the inflammation must also pass. Instead, it often happens that the inflammation remains at a low but always constant degree. This can happen, for example, due to an unhealthy diet, stress factors, exposure to pollution or even sleep disturbances. Advancing age is also a risk factor for chronic inflammation. If the inflammation persists over the long term, the risk of heart disease but also of cancer, depression, obesity and diabetes increases. Therefore, it is clear that reducing inflammation is a powerful weapon against many diseases that can affect us with advancing age. But how to reduce inflammation? Previous studies have already seen that dietary fiber is linked to a lower level of inflammation. However, there are few studies available and none have investigated the role of fiber in the elderly. Not only that, no research has analyzed the possible difference between the various sources of fiber, such as cereals, fruit and vegetables.
Cereals reduce inflammation and cardiovascular risk
To fill this gap, the researchers developed the study we are talking about today. The scientists drew on data from more than 4,000 people over the age of 65 who participated in a large study, the Cardiovascular Health Study. Volunteers were recruited between 1989 and 1990 and then followed up until 2015, gathering information on diet and health conditions. What emerged was that, as might be expected, a higher intake of foods rich in fiber is associated with lower values of the inflammation markers. However, it also emerged that the fibers are not all the same and that the greatest benefits in terms of reducing inflammation were observed with the intake of whole grains. Fruits and vegetables have not been shown to significantly decrease inflammation. This obviously does not mean that we can stop eating fruit and vegetables that, on the contrary, must always be present every day as they are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The study only wants to state that, as far as inflammation is concerned, whole grains have been found to be more effective in combating it. Not only that, whole grains have always been linked to a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. As for this effect, the ability of cereals to reduce inflammation only partially explains the cardioprotective properties. Scientists have estimated, in fact, only a 20% reduction in cardiovascular risk is associated with a reduction in inflammation by whole grains. Thus, this means that whole grains act for heart health by other mechanisms as well, not investigated in the study in question and probably not even fully understood. Whole grains are in fact a synergy of substances that help protect against cardiovascular diseases.
So the study highlights the importance of whole grains in the diet both to protect the heart and to reduce inflammation levels, with benefits for the entire body.