A growing body of evidence suggests that high inflammation levels are responsible for several chronic diseases that are prevalent in modern society. (1) Hence, there is a need to identify foods that are known to increase inflammation. Reducing the consumption of these foods is the key to a healthier lifestyle.
Here are a few foods that increase inflammation in your body.
1. Consuming Too Much Sugar
According to research, your food choices can significantly alter the inflammation levels in your body. (2)
While some foods decrease inflammation, others can exacerbate it.
A systematic review was carried out in 2018 to assess the effect of sugar on inflammation. (3)
This review cited several papers that suggest that high sugar intake increases chronic inflammation. Sugary drinks are the main culprits since they have high amounts of sugar and are almost devoid of fiber and nutrients.
People who consumed a sugar-rich diet were found to have substantially greater blood levels of inflammation markers. One of these markers is C-reactive protein.
One study found that a can of soda with 40 grams of sugar spikes inflammation levels. It also leads to an increase in LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol) and insulin resistance. (4)
Another study carried out on overweight individuals showed that sugar increases uric acid levels in the body. Uric acid increases inflammation levels as well as insulin resistance. Participants who consumed diet soda, milk, or water saw no difference in their uric acid levels. (5)
Many people believe that fructose raises inflammation more than glucose. However, a systematic review found no evidence that fructose is more inflammatory than glucose. (6)
This is one area that requires further research.
2. Increasing Your Intake of Saturated Fats
Evidence suggests that saturated fats can raise inflammation. (7)
Examples of foods high in saturated fats include fatty cuts of red meat, chicken meat with skin, high-fat dairy items (ice cream, sour cream, cheese, butter, whole milk), lard, and tallow.
A 2016 study by the University of California suggests that saturated fat triggers inflammation by ‘short-circuiting’ immune cells. (8)
The results provided by this research may help scientists to discover therapies that may reduce the risk of chronic illnesses caused by inflammation.
Bad Gut Bacteria
There is also evidence that saturated fats may raise inflammation in the gut by altering gut flora. (9)
The results of this study were published in the June 2013 issue of Nature. The study explored the mechanism between high levels of dietary saturated fat and increased gut inflammation. The researchers found that saturated fats disrupt the balance of gut flora.
This may increase the risk of inflammatory bowel disease like colitis. In colitis, the large intestines swell up and result in diarrhea, pain, and discomfort.
Researchers fed saturated fat to mice that were genetically predisposed to colitis. They found that higher saturated fat consumption encourages the growth of a harmful bacterium called bilophila wadsworthia. This bacterium is often found in high levels in colitis patients and is responsible for this health condition.
When these mice were fed with unsaturated fats or low levels of saturated fats, their bilophila wadsworthia bacterium levels plummeted significantly.
3. Adding Trans Fats to Your Diet
There is evidence to suggest that trans fats may lead to a higher risk of death, coronary heart disease, and diabetes mellitus. (10)
Foods that contain trans fats include baked goods (frozen pies, cakes, cookies, crackers), snack foods like microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, fast food, margarine, vegetable shortening, coffee creamer, and refrigerated dough products like cinnamon rolls and biscuits.
One reason why trans-fats lead to coronary disease could be due to their detrimental effects on endothelial function and reduced nitric oxide output. (11)
A study on systematic inflammation in women found that trans-fats can promote inflammation due to over-activity of the immune system. (12)
Chronically high levels of immune system activity are also implicated in chronic illnesses like diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. (13)
4. Focusing Too Much on Omega-6
A study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain observed the effects of omega-6 fatty acids on adults with arthritic knees. (14)
Examples of foods high in omega-6 fatty acids include snack items like corn chips, potato chips, tortilla chips, peanut granola bars, fast food, firm tofu, sunflower seeds, safflower oil, and peanut butter.
Researchers found that adults who had a much higher level of omega-6 fatty acids suffered from greater knee pain and poorer knee function. Adults who had a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 had better knee function and reduced pain.
Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with lower inflammation levels, whereas omega-6 is linked to higher inflammation levels. Both of these fatty acids are considered essential since they are not produced by the human body and must be consumed through food.
Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio
Almost everyone consumes more omega-6 than omega-3. This is because omega-6 is found in higher quantities than omega-3 in many foods that we consume like meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and corn oil. However, problems associated with high inflammation arise when the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 becomes too high.
A study published in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine found that Americans have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 16:1.
5. Eating Refined Carbohydrates
Research published in the February 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studied the effects of whole grains on over 900 healthy women and men. Study participants with the highest grain consumption had lower inflammation, better cholesterol levels, and improved blood sugar levels. On the other hand, those who consumed less whole grains and more refined carbohydrates suffered from higher inflammation and poorer blood cholesterol and sugar levels. The results of the study showed that diets with a high glycemic index lead to greater C-reactive protein levels in the blood – a key inflammation marker.
Foods with high refined carbohydrate content include breakfast cereals, sweets, pasta, snacks, sodas, pastries, rice, white bread, white flour, and added sugar. Many processed foods have a high amount of added sugars due to which they are high in refined carbohydrates.
A 2014 study carried out on 229 obese children showed that excessive refined carbohydrates can increase inflammatory markers. (15)
Besides refined carbohydrates, the study also implicated saturated fat as a factor behind high inflammation and insulin resistance.
Refined carbohydrates (like white bread), sugar, most vegetable oils, trans fats, saturated fats, and red meat can increase inflammation levels in the body. The Standard American Diet, by its very nature, appears to be highly inflammatory.
However, you can make a change. Besides making healthy lifestyle choices, you can add supplements to your diet to help you curb your inflammation levels.
Pomera are two such supplements that you can rely on to fight inflammation.
Both contain natural ingredients that are known to lower inflammatory markers,
and they are now available bundled together in North American
Nutra’s Rare Antioxidants Bundle.