Chronic inflammation plays 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 the early and late stages of atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque).
In a recent study at Harvard University, researchers found that diets high in red and processed meat, refined grains, and sugary beverages, which have been linked to increased inflammation in the body, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Another study at the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute in Barcelona checked the positive effects of eating walnuts, an anti-inflammatory food, had on decreasing inflammation and heart disease risk.
The study findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. One author of the study is Jun Li, MD, Ph.D.
Previous research has shown 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 inflammatory biomarkers and lower heart disease risk.
In the study, researchers used the data from the Nurses’ Health Studies I and II starting from 1986. 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 features were linked to an increased rate of heart disease.
People consuming pro-inflammatory diets had a 46% higher risk of heart disease and 28% higher risk of stroke, compared to those consuming anti-inflammatory diets.
The researchers suggest 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 suggest limiting the intake of refined sugars and grains, fried foods, sodas, and restricting processed, red, and organ meat.
In another study in Spain, researchers examined how incorporating walnuts into an individual’s usual diet would improve inflammatory biomarkers.
A total of 634 participants were assigned either a diet without walnuts or a diet with regularly incorporated walnuts (about 30-60 grams per day).
After a follow-up period of two years, those who ate a diet with walnuts showed strongly reduced levels of inflammation in the body in 6 out of 10 of the inflammatory biomarkers tested.
The team suggests that the anti-inflammatory effect of eating walnuts is important for heart health.
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