Mrs. Cardiology, The Strong Case for the Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Mrs. Cardiology, Strong Case for Anti Inflammatory Diet
Time: 01/19/2016 09:15 AM EST
Episode Notes: Hear the Strong Case for Anti Inflammatory Diet to Combat Chronic Disease like Heart Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Asthma. Is it just a buzzword in current medical circles or can following an antinflammatory diet save your life? Mrs. Cardiology’s research shows that it certainly can’t hurt. Listen in to hear what she has researched from authoritative sources on the anti-inflammatory diet. Please share with those whose eating habits most certainly threaten their well being.
Information culled from:
From the Mayo Clinic Health Letter
Buzzed on inflammation
Brent Bauer, M.D.
General Internal Medicine, Editorial Board member of Mayo Clinic Health Letter
As buzzwords go in medicine, “inflammation” is at the top of the list, and has been featured in this July newsletter from the Mayo Clinic. Mrs. Cardiology explains that her husband, Dr. Santosh Pandit, has been blaming inflammation as the culprit in all chronic illness.
Acute inflammation, however, is the process that heals the body after an injury or infection and is essential and normal. It is an amazing process of biochemical reactions that the human body has designed to heal itself “increasing blood flow to the area and signaling molecules and other chemical components to recruit the body’s equivalent of the Superhero.” The Superhero is blood cells that fight off foreign bodies. This is a normal and healthy process and not the type of inflammation that is the culprit of chronic disease. Chronic inflammation on the other hand is a case of mistaken identity where the body’s immune system mistakenly initiates an inflammatory response even though there’s no apparent inflammation to fight off. This type of inflammation is responsible for diseases like asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, even heart disease.
Some experts recommend an “anti-inflammatory diet.” This is usually the components of the Mediterranean diet and as you can see certainly can’t hurt. These are the steps to follow:
- Eat generous amounts of fruits and vegetables
- Eat healthy fats, such as olive oil and canola oil
- Add small portions of nuts
- drink red wine in moderation
- Eat fish on a regular basis
- Consuming very little red meat
Here’s what the American Hear Association says:
From the American Heart Association In an Article “Understand the risks of inflammation.”
“Although it is not proven that inflammation causes cardiovascular disease, inflammation is common forheart disease and stroke patients and is thought to be a sign or atherogenic response. It’s important to know what inflammation is and what it can do to your heart.”
“Think about a splinter in your finger or an abscess on a tooth,” said Donna Arnett, Ph.D., chair and professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a past president of the American Heart Association. “Our body launches an attack with our white blood cells and chemicals that results in redness and swelling to kill the bacteria or rid the body of the intruder.”
Similarly, for the cardiovascular system, risk factors like cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol can “injure” the heart. In turn, atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits in the inner walls of arteries, can develop. This narrows the arteries and increases the risk they’ll become blocked.
The Role of Inflammation in Heart Attack and Stroke
“Exactly how inflammation plays a role in heart attack and stroke remains a topic of ongoing research,” added Deepak Bhatt, M.D. “It appears that the inciting event in many heart attacks and some forms of stroke is buildup of fatty, cholesterol-rich plaque in blood vessels.”
Bhatt is chief of cardiology for the VA Boston Healthcare System, director of the Integrated Interventional Cardiovascular Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital & VA Boston Healthcare System, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“The body perceives this plaque as abnormal and foreign — it does not belong in a healthy blood vessel,” he said. “In response, the body tries to wall off the plaque from the flowing blood. However, under the wrong set of circumstances, that plaque may rupture, and its walled-off contents can come into contact with blood and trigger a blood clot formation.”
Bhatt added, “This combination of plaque and blood clots causes the majority of heart attacks and certain types of stroke, if the blood clot obstructs blood flow to the heart or brain.”
An artery to the heart that’s blocked causes a heart attack.
The Anti-inflammatory diet is not even a diet so much as it is a change in life style and a healthy eating program.
Each book and website promoting the Anti-inflammatory diet has its own spin.
Barry Sears, MD, of The Zone diet fame and Andrew Weil, MD, the Harvard-trained natural and preventive medicine physician, say the anti-inflammatory diet is ideal for overall good health. Such advocates of the diet say it can reduce heart disease risk, reduce the effects of existing cardiac problems, lower blood tiglycerides, blood pressure and sooth arthritic joint pain.
Why Anti-Inflammatory Diets?
Russell Greenfield, MD, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a private-practice physician who studied under Weil, says each plan has its own unique selling point but all site the general concept that out of control inflammation in the body leads to ill health and eating to avoid the foods that cause constant inflammation promotes better health and can help avoid certain chronic diseases.
He continues in a Wed MD interview: “We always thought anything with an “itis” at the end involved inflammation,” he says, such as arthritis or appendicitis. But even the illnesses without an “itis” at the end, such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, even Alzheimer’s disease, may be triggered in part by inflammation.”
The average American diet, Greenfield says, includes far too many foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids, found in processed and fast foods, and far too few rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in cold-water fish or supplements. When that balance is out of whack, inflammation can set in, Sears explains. Phytochemicals — natural chemicals found in the plant foods suggested on the diets — are also believed to help reduce inflammation. Phytochemicals are non-nutritive plant chemicals that have protective or disease preventive properties.
Anti-Inflammatory Diets: What Should Be In Your Fridge?
The anti-inflammatory diet is “probably very close to the Mediterranean diet,” says Christopher Cannon, MD, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston. He co-authored The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Anti-Inflammation Diet, which includes recipes for anti-inflammatory eating and information on vitamins.
An anti-inflammatory diet is the Zone diet with fish oil says Sears, who wrote The Anti-Inflammation Zone and whose popular Zone diet recommends low-fat protein, carbs, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Specifics vary from diet to diet, but in general anti-inflammatory diets suggest:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Minimize saturated and trans fats
- Eat a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or walnuts.
- Watch your intake of refined carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice.
- Eat plenty of whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat.
- Eat lean protein sources such as chicken; cut back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods.
- Avoid refined foods and processed foods.
- Spice it up. Ginger, curry, and other spices can have an anti-inflammatory effect.
As one example of a day’s worth of anti-inflammatory eating, Cannon suggests a breakfast of toasted steel-cut oatmeal with berries, yogurt, or other topping and coffee or green tea green tea. Lunch could be tuna salad on 7-grain bread and a smoothie with seasonal fruits. For a snack, try an ounce of dark chocolate and about four walnuts. Dinner could be spaghetti with turkey meat sauce, spinach salad with oranges and walnuts, and apple cranberry pie made without butter.
“When you are talking about cutting back on red meat, dairy, fats and trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, highly processed carbs — and eating healthier protein like fish, eating more — odds are that people are going to lose at least a little bit of weight.”
Where Is the Proof That Reducing Inflammation Works?
Can a diet really affect inflammation?
Proponents say it can, but they acknowledge that the anti-inflammatory diet needs to be studied more extensively to prove that it actually reduces disease such as heart problems.
“But a related diet, the Mediterranean diet, has been and is associated with improved cardiac outcomes,” Cannon says.
Greenfield agrees. “There is ample evidence [of disease risk reduction] on the Asian-style diet and the Mediterranean-style diet,” he says. “When you take a look at the components [of those diets], they could easily be called anti-inflammatory diets.”
Omega-3, in doses of 3 grams or more per day, has been found effective for those with rheumatoid arthritis, reducing morning stiffness and the number of joints that are tender or swollen, according to a review of the research on omega-3 fatty acids and health in American Family Physician.
Omega-3 fatty acids, in foods like salmon, flaxseed and walnuts, are known inflammation fighters. DHA and EPA are two types of omega-3 fatty acids (you’ll see them listed on your bottle of supplements). In a study just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects given 2.7 grams per day of DHA for 10 weeks showed fewer markers for inflammation than those given 2.7 grams of EPA or a placebo
Anecdotally, says Greenfield, he hears from patients that avoiding “inflammatory” foods can help their osteoarthritis pain. He recalls talking to patients with arthritis who have vacationed in India, for instance, eating dishes with plenty of curry, and telling him their joints didn’t hurt as much while they were there.
Curry, he says, as well as ginger, is a natural anti-inflammatory.
Not surprisingly, the anti-inflammatory diet takes longer to work than, say, an anti-inflammatory medicine. “With an anti-inflammatory drug, you feel better in an hour or two,” Greenfield says. For the anti-inflammatory diet, more patience is needed. “I would say clearly within just a few weeks most of the patients I have see a noticeable difference [in symptoms].”
Also Curcumin (the bioactive ingredient in the spice turmeric) has lots of science supporting its anti-inflammatory benefits. A 2015 study at the University of Arizona found that curcumin suppressed inflammation and prevented tumor formation in mice with colitis-associated colon cancer. “Ginger is another good spice to use regularly,” says Chris D’Adamo, director of research, Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine. It’s been shown to inhibit compounds that promote inflammation.
Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid
Alternative health expert Dr. Andrew Weil’s food pyramid will help you eat the optimum amount of fruits, vegetables and even pasta to prevent inflammation and reduce your risk of chronic diseases. But the best part is that you don’t have to cut out things like red wine and chocolate. Both can be good for you in moderation. Learn more about Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory foods.
Posted on 11/02/2010 | By Dr. Andrew Weil |
Reduce inflammation with these anti-inflammatory suggestions, starting from the bottom of the pyramid and moving up:
- All fruits and vegetables: Try to get all the colors!
- Whole and cracked grains: Oats, brown rice, whole rye, whole-wheat breads and pastas
- All beans and legumes
- Healthy fats: Extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts, avocados, hemp seeds, flaxseed
- Fish and seafood: Salmon, black cod, sardines
- Whole soy foods: Edamame, soy nuts, soy milk, tofu, tempeh
- Omega-3 enriched eggs
- Skinless poultry and lean meats
- Spices: Ginger, turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, holy basil, rosemary
- Teas: White, green, oolong
- Red wine (but no more than 1 to 2 glasses a day!)
There are many healthy reasons to opt for a predominantly plant-based diet, and research has shown that less inflammation is one of them. A 2015 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a sugar molecule derived from red meat promotes inflammation and cancer progression. So swapping your beef burger for a veggie version (at least once in a while) could help keep systemic inflammation at bay.
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Sunita Pandit is the practice manager for Dr. Santosh Pandit in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is the host of Mrs. CardiologyHeart Tips Not Tricks which you can hear at: