In a new study, researchers found that diets high in red and processed meat, refined grains, and sugary beverages can increase the subsequent risk of heart disease and stroke.
These diets have been associated with increased inflammation in the body.
The study is among the first to link a food-based dietary inflammatory index with a long-term risk of heart disease.
The research was conducted by a team at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
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 associated with the early and late stages of atherosclerosis.
Previous studies have found that diet can influence inflammation levels, but few healthy dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet (rich in olive oil, nuts, whole grain, fruits and vegetables, and seafood consumption, and light on dairy and red/processed meat), have shown lower concentrations of some inflammatory biomarkers and lower heart disease risk.
There has been less research focused on whether long-term adherence to proinflammatory diets is linked to increased rates of heart disease or stroke.
In the study, researchers used the men and women from the Nurses’ Health Studies I and II starting from 1986 and included up to 32 years of follow up.
Over 210,000 participants were included in the analysis. The participants completed a survey every four years to ascertain dietary intake.
The team found that dietary patterns with higher inflammatory potential were associated with an increased rate of heart disease.
After controlling for other risk factors such as BMI, physical activity, family history of heart disease and multivitamin use, the participants consuming proinflammatory diets had a 46% higher risk of heart disease and 28% higher risk of stroke, compared to those consuming anti-inflammatory diets.
The researchers suggested consuming foods with higher levels of antioxidants and fiber to help combat inflammation: Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, cabbage, arugula), yellow vegetables (pumpkin, yellow peppers, beans, carrots), whole grains, coffee, tea, and wine.
They also suggested limiting the intake of refined sugars and grains, fried foods, sodas, and restricting processed, red, and organ meat.
These foods are among the major contributors to the proinflammatory dietary index.
One author of the study is Jun Li, MD, PhD.
The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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