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Anti-Inflammatory and Pro-Inflammatory Foods

A study from the University of Liverpool shows that fruits and vegetables contain polyphenols that help to protect you from chronic inflammation (Br J Nutr, May 28, 2016;115(10):1699–1710). Chronic inflammation increases risk for certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. The more polyphenols you eat, the greater your protection from chronic inflammation and the diseases it causes. The authors showed that inflammation was reduced by substances such as isorhamnetin, resveratrol, curcumin, and vanillic acid found in onions, turmeric, red grapes, green tea and açai berries. Polyphenols such as these are found in virtually all fruits and vegetables.

What is Inflammation?
When germs invade your body, your immune system sends out cells and proteins to kill the invading germs. Your immune system responds with exactly the same cells and proteins in exactly the same way when cells in your body are injured to remove damaged tissue and start the healing process. As soon as the germs are conquered, or tissues heal, your immunity stops sending out huge amounts of these cells and proteins. However if your immunity stays overactive, you develop inflammation in which these same cells and proteins attack and damage your cells. Chronic inflammation damages healthy tissues in the body to cause many diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
• Pro-inflammatory foods turn on your immunity to cause these cells and proteins to attack and damage your own normal cells.
• Anti-inflammatory foods dampen down this response to protect your cells from damage from an overactive immunity.

Why Do Plants Have Polyphenols?
Since fruits and vegetables cannot run away from their enemies -- insects, bacteria, viruses, fungi, animals and humans -- they protect themselves by producing large amounts of poisons called oxidants that can harm the invaders. To protect themselves from their own oxidants, plants produce antioxidants called polyphenols. When you eat fruits and vegetables, you get the benefits of these polyphenols, which include helping to protect you from your own immunity and keep it from remaining too active (called inflammation).

This particular study showed that the polyphenols tested from onions, turmeric, red grapes, green tea and açai berries helped to reduce the release of pro-inflammatory mediators in humans who were at risk of chronic inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory foods include:
• fruits
• vegetables
• nuts
• whole grains
• beans
• coffee and tea
• fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines

Pro-inflammatory foods include:
• sweetened beverages and sugar-added foods
• foods made with flour and other refined carbohydrates
• red meat (meat from mammals)
• processed meats
• butter, margarine, shortening, lard
• fried foods 

Checked 12/29/18

May 29th, 2016
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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