Page last updated:Dec 2020

Can avoiding inflammatory foods lower CVD and stroke risk?

Diets high in red and processed meat, refined grains and sugary beverages – which have been associated with increased inflammation in the body – may increase subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke compared to diets filled with anti-inflammatory foods, according to a study published Nov. 2 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC).
Jun Li et al., 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. After excluding participants with missing diet information or previously diagnosed cardiovascular disease, stroke or cancer, over 210,000 participants were included in the analysis. The participants completed a survey every four years to ascertain dietary intake.
The researchers used an empirically-developed, food-based dietary index to evaluate levels of inflammation associated with dietary intake that was based on 18 predefined food groups that together showed the strongest associations with an increase in inflammatory biomarkers. After controlling for other risk factors such as BMI, physical activity, family history of cardiovascular disease and multivitamin use, results showed the participants consuming proinflammatory diets had a 46% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and 28% higher risk of stroke, compared to those consuming anti-inflammatory diets.
Based on results, 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. The researchers also suggested limiting intake of refined sugars and grains, fried foods, sodas, and restricting processed, red and organ meat as these foods are among the major contributors to the proinflammatory dietary index.
“We found that dietary patterns with higher inflammatory potential were associated with an increased rate of cardiovascular disease,” said Li, lead author of the study and research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Our study is among the first to link a food-based dietary inflammatory index with long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Source: Jun Li, Dong Hoon Lee, Jie Hu, Fred K. Tabung, Yanping Li, Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju, Eric B. Rimm, Kathryn M. Rexrode, JoAnn E. Manson, Walter C. Willett, Edward L. Giovannucci, Frank B. Hu. Dietary Inflammatory Potential and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Men and Women in the U.S., Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Volume 76, Issue 19, 2020, Pages 2181-2193, ISSN 0735-1097.
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