- Lifestyle change
- Healthy diet
- Refined carbohydrates
- Trans fats
Lifestyle Induced Inflammation
Inflammation is not entirely a bad thing. When it happens over extended periods, it can trigger diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. A number of foods that we eat have been linked to chronic low-grade inflammation, so being aware of them and eliminating them from your diet can help to improve your health and prevent disease.
5 Foods that Trigger Inflammation
1. Artificial Sugars
There are two main types of artificial sugars:
- Table sugar – sucrose composed of 50% glucose and 50% fructose
- High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – 45% glucose and 55% fructose.
One reason artificial sugars are harmful is that they can increase inflammation which can lead to disease. In one study, mice fed high-sucrose diets developed breast cancer that spread to their lungs, in part due to the inflammatory response to sugar. In another study, the anti-inflammatory impact of omega-3 fatty acids was impaired in mice fed a high-sugar diet.
In yet another study, people were given regular soda, diet soda, milk, or water. Of these, only those in the regular soda group had increased levels of uric acid which causes inflammation and insulin resistance. While the small amounts of fructose in fruits and vegetables are fine, getting large amounts from added sugars is a bad idea. Eating a lot of fructose has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer, and chronic kidney disease. Food high in artificial sugar includes candy, soft drinks, cakes, sweet pastries, and certain cereals.
2. Artificial Trans Fats
Artificial trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats, which are liquid, in order to make them solid. In a solid state they have a longer shelf life. Consequently, manufacturers often use trans fats to extend the shelf life of processed foods such as French fries and other fried fast food, margarine and vegetable shortening, packaged cakes and cookies, pastries, and all processed food with “partially hydrogenated” oils as part of the ingredients.
Artificial trans fats have been shown to cause chronic low-grade inflammation. They lower “good” HDL cholesterol levels and may cause damage to endothelial cells lining arteries which is a risk factor for heart disease.
3. Refined Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the source of energy for our cells. However, refined carbohydrates, which have most of the fiber removed, may cause inflammation by creating an environment for the growth of inflammatory microbiota. They may also cause leptin resistance and obesity.
Fiber is essential for promoting satiety and improving blood sugar control. Refined carbs have a higher glycemic index (GI) than unrefined carbs, and foods with a high glycemic index elevate blood sugar rapidly. White bread is an example of refined carbohydrates. In one study, subjects who ate 50 grams of white bread experienced higher blood sugar levels and a spike in inflammatory markers. Refined carbohydrates are found in white bread, pasta, white rice, carbonated drinks, cakes and all processed food that contains added sugar or white flour.
4. Excessive Alcohol
Moderate consumption of alcohol has been associated with cardiovascular benefits, however excessive consumption is likely to cause inflammation and trigger disease. Heavy drinking can also trigger leaky gut syndrome which is a precursor for inflammation and organ damage. Moderate alcohol consumption should not exceed two standard bottles for men and one standard bottle for women.
5. Processed Meat
Excessively processed meats have added compounds such as advanced glycation end products which are harmful to the body. They have been linked with heart disease, diabetes, stomach cancer, and colon cancer. Common types of processed meat include some sausages, bacon, ham, smoked meat, and beef jerky. Advanced glycation products are created by exposing meats to high temperatures during preparation. These products are known to increase oxidant stress and inflammation, and cause inflammation through other mechanisms as well. As a result, it is wise to minimize the consumption of processed meat.
The Bottom Line for Inflammation and Disease
Chronic low-grade inflammation is linked to a number of chronic diseases including cancer, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. These conditions further contribute to inflammation making it a vicious cycle. It is also evident that lifestyle contributes to this kind of toxic inflammation, and by altering diet and making a few lifestyle changes one can greatly minimize their chances of getting these diseases. It is not enough to just drop these unhealthy foods, but you need to replace them with healthier alternatives. Here is an article about foods that reduce inflammation (hyperlink to the article on managing inflammation with diet).
What happens if you have already been diagnosed with an inflammation-related disease? Do not panic as hope is not lost. By altering your diet, you can claim your health back. Foods that promote insulin sensitivity can help to reverse diabetes and cure obesity. You can also read our article on how to reverse diabetes with diet.
If you are at high risk for lifestyle-related disease there is no shortcut to health and longevity; you just have to take drastic measures to change your diet and lifestyle. A good place to start is by eliminating these toxic foods from your diet.
1. NCBI (2010): The global diabetes epidemic as a consequence of lifestyle-induced low-grade inflammation. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19890624
2. NCBI (2015): Differences and similarities in hepatic lipogenesis, gluconeogenesis and oxidative imbalance in mice fed diets rich in fructose or sucrose. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25905791
3. NCBI (2014): Trans fatty acids: are its cardiovascular risks fully appreciated? Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24636816
4. NCBI (2005): Consumption of trans fatty acids is related to plasma biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15735094
5. NCBI (2008): High-glycemic index carbohydrate increases nuclear factor-kappaB activation in mononuclear cells of young, lean healthy subjects. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18469238