By: Tracey Greenwood, Ph.D.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Obesity continues to be an increasing epidemic in the United States. An abundance of evidence shows that obesity is caused by a combination of a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutritional habits consisting of high-fat and high-glycemic carbohydrates. However, additional factors play a role in obesity, including the improper balance of hormones and diets consisting of foods that cause inflammation. Inflammatory foods may contribute to excess fat accumulation in the abdominal region.
Most people associate inflammation with pain, swelling and redness due to an injury or infection. This is the immune system’s normal response when injury or infection occurs. New research shows there is a second type of inflammation known as low-grade inflammation or silent inflammation. Current research is focusing on the relationships between diet, inflammation and chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer. Since there is no pain associated with silent inflammation, it sometimes goes undetected for years, causing detrimental damage to organs.
Foods that Contribute to Silent Inflammation
The typical American diet currently consists of an increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, and a decreased consumption of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.
• Diets that are high in refined carbohydrates are those carbohydrates that have a high-glycemic index and quickly raise insulin levels in the blood. Refined carbohydrates consist of mostly white bread products, rice and potatoes.
• Diets high in omega-6 fatty acids also contribute to this condition. Some vegetable oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids. The main component in omega-6 vegetable oils is linoleic acid.
• The combination of refined carbohydrates and foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids increases the production of arachidonic acid, leading to silent inflammation.
• The consumption of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids by Americans has progressively declined over the years and this contributes to the rise in silent inflammation.
• Diets that promote inflammation also tend to consist of a hormonal imbalance. Insulin, the major hormone associated with excessive fat and obesity, and leptin, another hormone associated with hunger, are both contributors to silent inflammation.