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‘Inflammatory foods’ can increase heart disease and stroke risk



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A Mediterranean diet with vegetables, fruits and whole grains can reduce the risk of heart disease, experts say. Alexander Spatari / Getty Images
  • New research shows that processed, refined foods contain sugar that causes inflammation, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
  • Likewise, whole foods and healthy proteins reduce inflammation, leading to better health outcomes.
  • It’s best to follow a Mediterranean diet while avoiding red meat, sugary drinks, and processed foods.
  • A healthy diet, combined with exercise, will reduce the risk of developing chronic illness.

You may have heard your doctor tell you that it’s best to follow a mostly plant-based diet and avoid processed, refined, sugary foods.

Now, a new study underscores the importance of this medical intelligence.

Research published this month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) found that a diet high in inflammatory foods was linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. stroke.

Data for the study came from Nurse I and II Health Studies, which analyzed more than 210,000 people starting in 1986. It included up to 32 years of follow-up.

Previous studies have shown that following a more plant-based diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, leads to a lower risk of inflammation over time.

Dr. Jun Li, a research scientist in the department of nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, and lead author of the study, told Healthline that these findings are consistent across studies. Different groups and between men and women.

“The likelihood of inflammation is significantly associated with a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, compared with the 20% of the study population consuming the most anti-inflammatory diet,” she notes.

“The 20 percent of the study population that used the most inflammatory diet was 46 percent more likely to have heart disease and a 28 percent higher risk of stroke,” she said.

Li points out that while the findings are clear, further research may help confirm the relationship between certain foods and inflammation.

“Our research includes only nurses and medical professionals, and our study population is predominantly white, so it is important to expand and replicate our findings. in other population groups, ”she said. “We are doing the same analysis in other cohorts with a higher proportion of Hispanics and African Americans.”

Many of the foods in the typical North American diet will cause inflammation that can lead to heart problems – specifically sugary drinks, processed meats and refined grains.

“Regarding this study, I think it’s best to reduce the amount of refined grains, especially fried grains [as well as] red meat, processed meat and offal, and sugary drinks, ”Li said.

“Saying never to eat these foods is impossible, but try to cut back on these foods and replace them with whole grains, plants or other healthy protein sources, such as fish. Also, increase your intake of dark green and yellow leafy vegetables and fruits, ”she added.

In short, following a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and healthy protein, is better for your health than eating processed and refined foods.

Dr. Andrew Freeman, a cardiologist and director of prevention and cardiovascular health care at National Jewish Health in Denver, told Healthline that doctors have been recommending this for many years.

“It’s really not surprising that it’s mostly whole, low-fat, plant-based foods known to have anti-inflammatory properties,” he told Healthline. “It’s also not surprising that foods like sugary drinks, meat, cheese, fatty foods, etc. are associated with worse results.”

“It’s just another signal in all the buzz out there that diet is a super important part of our approach to good patient care and eating a mostly low diet. fat, whole foods, plant-based diets are really powerful. ”

The fact that a plant-based diet is healthier than a diet rich in processed foods is not a new discovery.

However, unhealthy diet is common, with heart disease being The leading cause of death in U.S.A.

While eating a burger and french fries and rinsing them with soft drinks may be more satisfying than eating a salad in the short term, thinking in the long run can bring about positive results. .

Freeman said he interviews patients to find out their personal motivation. For example, most parents probably want to stay in good health so that they can see their children marry and enjoy time with their grandchildren as they get older.

While there’s no shortage of products that promise better health on the market, Freeman says the real solution is much simpler: lifestyle pills.

“People are willing to do almost anything to get well, taking the most bizarre and random drugs and supplements,” he said. “But at the end of the day, if there is an unquoted ‘pill’ stronger than the others, would you take it? That ‘pill’ is a lifestyle medicine. “

Freeman says that lifestyle medicine includes living a healthy life: following a mostly plant-based diet, exercising regularly, eliminating stress and getting enough sleep.

“That would probably conquer the majority of chronic diseases in this country if we could do it,” he said.


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