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Eating fewer inflammatory foods lowers risk of heart disease and stroke, study finds

Researchers say changing your diet can be a great way to improve your health

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Eating healthier foods has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, but a new study conducted by researchers from the American College of Cardiology has found that following an anti-inflammatory diet is also a good way for consumers to reduce these same risks.

“Using an empirically-developed, food-based dietary index to evaluate levels of inflammation associated with dietary intake, we found that dietary patterns with higher inflammatory potential were associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” said researcher Dr. Jun Li. 

“Our study is among the first to link a food-based dietary inflammatory index with long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.” 

Making healthier choices

The researchers analyzed health records from over 210,000 participants involved in the Nurses’ Health Studies I and II to explore the connection between inflammatory foods and heart disease risk. 

Every four years of the study, the participants completed surveys about their diets. The researchers compared those responses to their inflammatory diet index, which included foods that had previously been identified as having high levels of inflammation. 

The study revealed that those who consumed more foods that were linked with the highest levels of inflammation -- like fried foods, soda, or refined sugars -- were at a higher risk of developing heart disease than those who followed a more anti-inflammatory diet. The researchers found that participants who regularly consumed high-inflammation foods were nearly 30 percent more likely to have a stroke and more than 45 percent likely to develop heart disease. 

Reducing inflammation and disease risk

Inflammation has been linked with increasing the risk for several serious health conditions, but consumers can help improve their health by taking control of their diets. In terms of reducing heart disease and stroke risks, the researchers recommend that consumers incorporate more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and even coffee into their diets. 

The researchers also encourage consumers to talk to their health care providers about their diets to get a better idea of what foods could be increasing inflammation and which foods are better for reducing inflammation. 

“A better knowledge of health protection provided by different foods and dietary patterns, mainly their anti-inflammatory properties, should provide the basis for designing even healthier dietary patterns to protect against heart disease,” said researcher Dr. Ramon Estruch. “When choosing foods in our diet, we should indeed be aware of their proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory potential!” 

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