Nutrition, inflammation and heart health

The Mediterranean diet, a high intake of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, tea and nuts have been shown to reduce the level of inflammation in the body and with this also the risk of stroke and heart disease. But what happens when you consume instead high quantity of foods capable of inducing inflammation? The researchers of Harvard TH Chan School of Publich Health wondered that and the results of their work have just been published in the Journal of The American College of Cardiology (Jun Li et al, JACC, Nov 2020).
Chronic inflammation in the body plays an important role in the development of heart disease and heart attack. In fact, some indicators of inflammation, such as interleukins or chemokines, are associated with arteriosclerosis. Today, we also know that some types of foods, such as nuts, green leafy vegetables, for example kale, spinach, cabbage and rocket salad, but also pumpkin, peppers, carrots, beans, whole grains, coffee and tea, can reduce the levels of inflammation thanks to their content in fibers and antioxidants. But what is the effect of a diet rich in pro-inflammatory foods, such as red and processed meat, fried foods, refined cereals and sugary drinks, on the state of heart health? The researchers used data from a study that began in 1986 and continued for 32 years in order to determine this. In this way it was possible to analyze the eating habits, assessed every four years, and the health status of 210,000 people. Based on the list of foods that made up the diet of the study participants, the researchers were able to calculate the level of inflammation coming from the diet. What emerged was that those who consumed a diet higher in pro-inflammatory foods had a 46% higher risk of developing heart disease and a 28% higher risk of stroke than those who consumed an anti-inflammatory diet.
Finally, it should be noted that another very recent study published in the same journal (Cofan et al, JACC, Nov 2020) showed that the intake of 30 grams of walnuts per day, for two years, decreased inflammation in the body since 6 out of 10 indicators of inflammation were significantly lower than the same markers at the start of the study.
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