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Lifestyle Induced Inflammation

Important Points:

  • Inflammation
  • 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.

References

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

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Conjugated Linoleic Acid: Is It Good for You?

Important Points:

  • Conjugated linoleic acid
  • CLA
  • Healthy fats
  • Trans fats
  • Grass-fed

Conjugated Linoleic Acid: Is It Good for You?

We have heard a lot about the unhealthy effects of fat. But did you know that some fats are actually good for your overall health and wellbeing? Conjugated linoleic is one such kind of fat, and you can read here why you need not worry about this healthy trans-fat.

What Is Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)?

CLA is a type of polyunsaturated, omega-6 fatty acid that is mostly found in the meat and milk of ruminants, such as cows, goats, and sheep. “Conjugated” has to do with the arrangement of the double bonds in the structure of the fatty acid molecule, and there are 28 different forms of CLA with the difference being in the arrangement of the double bonds.

CLA is a natural trans-fat and is not associated with the health risks that occur when one consumes high amounts of artificial trans fats such as industrial trans-fats.

CLA Is Mostly Found In Grass-Fed Animals

The total amounts of CLA found in animal meat and dairy will vary depending on what the animals are fed. Research has shown that grass-fed animals have the highest amounts of linoleic acid.

The average intake of CLA in the US is about 151 mg per day for women and 212 mg for men. Many CLA supplements have flooded the market, but unfortunately, most of them are not derived from natural sources; most are derived from vegetable sources and later chemically altered to resemble CLA. For this reason, CLA supplements may not provide the same health effects as naturally occurring CLA taken in through our diets.

Can CLA Help in Weight Loss?

Conjugated linoleic acid is not inert but has biologic activity just like other fats. Research suggests that CLA may help in weight loss through different mechanisms including:

  • Fat burning
  • Reducing food intake
  • Stimulating fat breakdown
  • Inhibiting fat production

Human studies have also shown that CLA can help to reduce body fat while increasing muscle mass, but has only shown modest effects on weight loss. Here, weight loss is most pronounced during the first six months, after which it plateaus for up to two years.

Other Health Benefits of Conjugated Linoleic Acid

If you consume a lot of CLA from foods, you are at a lower risk of various diseases, especially if cows producing your dairy products are predominantly grass-fed rather than fed grain.

CLA is also useful for:

  • Controlling high blood pressure
  • Reducing obesity
  • Improving metabolic syndrome
  • Treating symptoms of hay fever allergies
  • Improve airway sensitivity in asthma
  • Reduce risk for breast cancer
  • Improve cognitive function in elderly men
  • Relieving symptoms of non alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Reducing pain, inflammation and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis

Many studies have suggested that people who eat the most CLA from dietary sources have improved metabolic health and a lower risk of many diseases.

Does CLA Cause Serious Side Effects?

Even though consuming small amounts of natural CLA is beneficial, high doses may trigger serious side effects. Higher than normal doses are usually found in supplements made by chemically altered linoleic acid from vegetable oils, as normal consumption of dairy or meat provides a normal dose of CLA.

Studies have shown that high amounts of supplemental CLA can cause increased accumulation of fat in your liver. In time, this will contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. High amounts of CLA can also trigger inflammation and fuel insulin resistance. This is unfortunate as it counters the potential health benefits that can be derived from this fatty acid.

Other side effects that are associated with high doses of conjugated linoleic acid include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Insulin resistance
  • Oxidative stress

You need to stick to the recommended daily doses of CLA to avoid these side effects especially when taking supplements. Whenever possible, stick to CLA that is directly derived from meat or dairy sources.

What Is The Appropriate Dose Of CLA?

The appropriate dose for CLA for adults is about 3.2–6.4 grams per day. One review gave an estimate of a minimum of 3 grams daily for weight loss. Doses of up to 6 grams per day can be taken without causing any serious adverse side effects.

The FDA allows CLA to be added to foods and gives it a GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status, however, you should remember to adhere to appropriate dosages as higher doses can easily trigger unwanted side effects.

In Conclusion

Conjugated linoleic acid has been used effectively to stimulate weight loss and shows potential in the treatment of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and other health conditions.

Although it doesn’t cause any serious side effects at doses up to 6 grams per day, higher doses especially from dietary supplements may cause long-term negative effects, so it would be best to consider safer alternative ways to lose fat.

References

1.      NCBI (2011): Effects of ruminant trans fatty acids on cardiovascular disease and cancer: a comprehensive review of epidemiological, clinical, and mechanistic studies. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22332075

2.      NCBI (2001): Estimation of conjugated linoleic acid intake by written dietary assessment methodologies underestimates actual intake evaluated by food duplicate methodology. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11340114

3.      NCBI (2009): Antiobesity Mechanisms of Action of Conjugated Linoleic Acid. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2826589/

4.      NCBI (2007): Efficacy of conjugated linoleic acid for reducing fat mass: a meta-analysis in humans. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17490954

5.      NCBI (2010): Conjugated linoleic acid in adipose tissue and risk of myocardial infarction. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20463040