What to understand about foods and inflammation

Chronic inflammation can happen with certain diseases like asthma, atrophic arthritis , type 2 diabetes, psoriasis, and obesity.

Research indicates that folks with such diseases may have higher levels of inflammatory markers in their bodies. Although many factors are involved in inflammation, certain foods may either increase or decrease the symptoms.

This article looks at foods which will worsen symptoms. It also discusses inflammation and its effect on health. Finally, it’s at anti-inflammatory foods, including vegetables and fruit, and anti inflammatory diets like the DASH and Mediterranean diets.

Foods that cause inflammation

Man and woman grilling food for party garden, top view

Many foods may worsen the symptoms of inflammation. Such foods include sugar, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and red or processed meats.

Many foods may worsen the symptoms of inflammation. Such foods include sugar, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and red or processed meats.

A diet high in sugar may affect chronic inflammation by increasing inflammatory markers within the blood, consistent with a 2018 systematic reviewTrusted Source of several studies.

In addition, excessive sugar consumption may increase inflammatory markers in children and cause chronic inflammation, consistent with a 2018 studyTrusted Source. The study compared a daily sugar reduction of 46% with an 11% reduction of proinflammatory markers in 11 children. The researchers suggest that a discount within the amount of sugar-sweetened drinks consumed during childhood may end in future health benefits.

Another 2018 article suggests that fructose might cause cell inflammation. Excess fructose can also increase fat round the abdominal organs and increase the quantity of fat within the liver.

Learn more about sugar and inflammation within the body here.

Trans fats
Trans fats may increase inflammatory markers and therefore the risk of chronic inflammation, which may cause diseases like diabetes and disorder . Trans fats can also raise the amount of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) while reducing high-density lipoproteins (HDL), a mixture which will increaseTrusted Source the danger of heart condition .

Learn more about cholesterol here.

Although beef and dairy products contain small amounts of present trans fats, most trans fats occur when manufacturers add hydrogen to oil . Trans fats may appear on labels as hydrogenated oil and may be in processed foods, food , fried foods, and margarine.

Omega 6 fatty acids
The body needs a particular amount of omega 6 fatty acids for healthy growth and developmentTrusted Source. However, excessive amounts of omega 6 fatty acids can cause the body to make pro-inflammatory chemicals.

Mayonnaise and salad dressings often have omega 6 fatty acids. Some oils like corn, safflower, sunflower, and groundnut oil also can contain the substance.

Refined carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates have a high-glycemic indexTrusted Source, which may increase a kind of protein called advanced glycation end (AGE) products, which can increase inflammation.

Refined carbohydrates include white flour products such as:

  • white bread and rolls
  • some crackers
  • white rice
  • some cereals

Red and processed meat
Red and processed meats are high in saturated fatsTrusted Source, which may cause inflammation in fat tissue.

A 2016 study suggests red and processed meat is linked with an increased inflammatory response within the body and should increase the danger of carcinoma .


There are two main typesTrusted Source of inflammation, acute and chronic.

Acute inflammation is a quick response from the body to injury or infection, which increases blood flow to the affected area. White blood cells help rebuild damaged tissue, and acute inflammation generally stops when the wound heals.

Chronic inflammation is a long-term condition that can develop gradually over months and yearsTrusted Source. Causes of chronic inflammation can include:

prolonged infection
exposure to toxic chemicals
autoimmune disorders
autoinflammatory disorders
repeated cases of acute inflammation
oxidative stress in the body
Risk factorsTrusted Source for chronic inflammation include:

older age
low levels of testosterone and estrogen
physical and emotional stress
sleep disorders
Processed foods, saturated fats, trans-fats, and refined sugar can increase the risk of pro-inflammatory molecules. This may especially be the case if a person is overweight or has diabetes.

Learn more about inflammation here.

How can inflammation affect health?
According to the National Cancer InstituteTrusted Source, inflammation can create DNA damage that may lead to cancer. Chronic inflammation is also linked with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which may increase the risk of colon cancer.

Inflammation is commonly present in people with heart disease and stroke and may have a link to plaques forming in the arteries.

Other inflammatory conditions include:

chronic kidney disease
non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
autoimmune conditions, such as lupus
neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease
arthritis and joint conditions
allergies and asthma
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

ever, if a person has recurrent or persistent low-level inflammation, some foods and diets may help a person reduce the symptoms.

While foods high in sugar or processed foods may worsen inflammation, a healthy eating regime based on fresh foods, such as vegetables and fruits, may help reduce symptoms.

Foods which may have anti-inflammatory effects include:

Fruits and vegetables: Many fruits and vegetables, such as berriesTrusted Source, apples, and cruciferous vegetables, are high in antioxidants and polyphenols which may have anti-inflammatory effects.
Learn more about antioxidants here.
Fiber: Increasing dietary fiber may help lower certain inflammatory cytokines, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Learn more about healthy high-fiber foods here.
Oily fish: Certain oily fishesTrusted Source contain omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce the body’s levels of inflammatory proteins.
Learn more about fish oils and omega-3 fatty acids here.
Nuts: Some nutsTrusted Source may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Learn more about healthy types of nuts here.
Turmeric: The curcumin in turmericTrusted Source may help improve inflammatory health conditions.
Learn more about turmeric here.
In addition to a healthy eating regime, some people may find that specific diets have a beneficial effect on inflammation.

ResearchTrusted Source suggests the Mediterranean diet may have a strong anti-inflammatory effect, protecting the body against the symptoms of chronic inflammatory diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

The diet may also help lessen the symptoms, and reduce the effectsTrusted Source, of inflammation on the cardiovascular system.

The Mediterranean diet includes:

high intake of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses, and olive oil
moderate intake of fish, seafood, yogurt, cheese, and milk
low intake of red and processed meat
low intake of foods high in sugar
Learn more about the Mediterranean diet here.

Another diet that may help to lower the symptoms of inflammation is called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Research into the diet to manage blood pressure was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)Trusted Source.

A 2017 reviewTrusted Source of studies looking at the effects of DASH found it improved circulating inflammatory biomarkers in adults and may help reduce inflammation in the body.

A DASH diet limits the intake of saturated fats and trans fats, sugary drinks and sweets, and salt. It focuses on the consumption of the following:

vegetables and fruits
whole grains
fat-free or low-fat dairy products
beans and nuts
vegetable oils
Learn more about the DASH diet here.

Inflammation is part of the body’s healing process but some medical conditions have a detrimental effect on the immune system, causing recurrent or persistent low-level inflammation.

Some foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, oily fish, nuts, pulses, and olive oil may help alleviate the symptoms of inflammation. In addition, some anti-inflammatory diets may also reduce or prevent inflammation.

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