This week our contributing writer Doctor Gifford-Jones talks about how to reduce inflammation through sound nutrition.
What is the most prudent diet to follow today? Some swear it’s the Atkin’s high protein diet. Others believe the low fat Ornish diet is the answer. And I’ve often stressed that a high fiber diet promotes health. But what about The Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
A report from Tufts University in Boston has an entirely new twist on nutrition and health. It claims that if we can decrease inflammation in our body we can also decrease the progression of disease.
We all know that something is amiss when we have an inflamed throat. But no one would give inflammation a second thought as the cause if the doctor diagnosed high blood pressure, heart disease or arthritis. Yet inflammation may be the culprit.
Today hypertension is a major cause of stroke, heart and kidney disease. But in 90 per cent of cases doctors cannot pinpoint the reason for the hypertension. Years ago Sir William Osler, one of this countries greatest physicians, hit the nail on the head when he remarked “You need good rubber to live a long life”. In other words, it’s better to have soft, flexible arteries than hard ones. Stiff arteries force the heart to push harder creating hypertension and its complications.
But Osler had no idea what made arteries stiff. Now researchers suggest that inflammation is the culprit and a test called, C-reactive protein (CRP), can measure the degree of inflammation. A study of 20,000 people followed for eight years showed that those who had the highest level of CRP were 50 per cent more likely to develop hypertension.
Elevated CRP levels also predict who will more likely develop coronary heart disease. Harvard doctors report that those with the highest CRP concentrations were four and a half times more likely to end up with heart disease.
But what shocked researchers was the next finding. Those with normal cholesterol levels, but with high concentrations of CRP were also more prone to heart trouble. This helps to explain why 50 per cent of heart attack victims have normal blood cholesterol.
For years researchers have also known that inflammation is associated with arthritis. Now they are more and more convinced that an anti-inflammation diet can help to ease pain of stiff, swollen inflamed joints.
A blood test is the only way to diagnose a high CRP. But Dr. Ernst Schaefer, chief of the Lipid Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts, says that abdominal obesity is a good predictor of an elevated CRP.
The best way to lower CRP is to lose weight. But shedding pounds off the middle is more effective than around the hips and thighs.
So what’s an anti-inflammatory diet? It’s a daily diet that contains more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, most people consume 10 times as much pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. This is also 10 times more than our ancestors consumed before the advent of supermarkets.
Omega-3 fatty acid is present in walnuts, pecans and green vegetables. But it’s abundant in fish oils such as salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel and fresh bluefin tuna. A study at the University of Washington showed that people who consumed two or more servings of fish every week were 40 per cent less likely to develop arthritis later on.
In another study in Denmark patients with rheumatoid arthritis ate four ounces of fish every day for six months. They experienced significant decreases in stiffness, swollen joints and all around pain.
To decrease the amount of omega-6 fatty acids in your diet cut down on processed foods, cookies, frozen foods and many desert items. Preparing your own meals is a good start towards a healthier diet and less inflammation.