If you need more proof that you are what you eat – perhaps to ease your guilt over last night’s double cheeseburger – look no further than a new study out of New Zealand, which found that simple dietary changes can have a profound effect on inflammation, even in as little as six weeks.
Inflammation - the body’s response to injury or infection as a way to heal itself - is an important factor in many chronic conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disorders and some cancers. (Ref. 1)
The links to disease come when that inflammation triggers more inflammation, creating a cycle that ultimately impacts the body’s ability to repair itself.
Foods and inflammation: The link
We know that eating a diet high in fats and sugars can leave us feeling tired and grumpy because the meals are digested and converted to blood glucose almost immediately. This provides a quick burst of energy that just as quickly dissipates, causing us to crash and burn.
We then usually find ourselves turning to more food to restore our energy, a move that leads to weight gain, continued lethargy and a host of other health problems, including inflammation.
When Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald’s meals for 30 days as fodder for his 2004 documentary “Super Size Me,” he not only gained weight and put his heart at risk, he also suffered from mood swings and sexual dysfunction.
One of the culprits was inflammation, a by-product of his poor diet.
Fast food is closely linked to inflammation, along with fried foods, processed foods, trans-fats, sugar and sugar substitutes, cured meats, dairy products, gluten and food additives. (Ref. 2)
The end result – and evidence that if you eat junk, you’ll get junk in return - is joint pain, fatigue and chronic high blood sugar, which can damage blood vessels, cause type 2 diabetes and trigger heart disease.
Food: A love story
When Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food” – way back in 431 B.C. – we should have paid more attention. But he hardly expected the trajectory the food world would follow, including the advent of TV dinners, processed foods with no natural ingredients and fruit juices that contain little more than sugar and water.
Most likely the man who touted herbal remedies for most ailments – and is today considered the father of modern medicine - would be turning in his grave given a look at what we often call a meal.
To cement the link between diet and inflammation, Lynette Ferguson, a professor of nutrition at Auckland University, launched a study that focused on tweaking the diets of otherwise healthy volunteers who weren’t really eating right.
In place of the foods that had been eating, including refined, processed foods, study participants were encouraged to switch to a healthier diet – one including fish (with salmon at least once per week), fruits and veggies, good fats from foods including nuts, olive oil and avocados - for six weeks.
To access the results, Ferguson looked at several key factors, including the biomarker, C-reactive protein (CRP), which has been linked to inflammation.
After the six-week study – intended to serve as a pilot to encourage further research – the CRP biomarkers were significantly lower in all participants.
“This is a remarkable result,” Ferguson said. “since it shows that average people, many of them young and with no health conditions, can, through an improvement in diet, significantly modify the biomarkers that indicate the risk that they could develop a chronic disease later.“
Dietary tips for better health
Previous studies have linked omega-3 fatty acids, berries, nuts, veggies including tomatoes, beets, leafy greens, garlic, onions and ginger as well as the antioxidant-rich spice turmeric to lower inflammation. (Ref. 4)
But there are other things we can do to keep inflammation – and the potentially life-threatening diseases that it triggers – at bay.
- Fiber up. It’s important to get enough fiber in your diet, not only to help maintain healthy digestion, but also because fiber has been linked to lower levels of CRP, the biomarker for inflammation. (Ref. 3)
- Limit sugar. Sugar hides in many processed foods including crackers, yogurt, bread and other unexpected places, so it can be easy to get too much if you don’t keep an eye on what you’re eating. Read labels, and limit sweet treats. (A daily bite of dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, making it a smart choice for soothing even a savage sweet tooth.)
- Choose healthy fats. Good fats like olive oil, avocado and the omega-3s of fatty fish can help fight inflammation, but sometimes our diets don’t include enough of the good stuff. Omega-3 fish oil has also been shown in studies to help fight inflammation, and can accentuate the positive effects of a healthy diet.
- Get moving. Researchers in Texas recently found that those who exercised saw lower inflammation markers than those who did not (Ref. 4), more proof that diet – and exercise – are the most critical steps to good health.
Our Xtend-Life Omega-3/DHA fish oil supplements also contain ingredients vital to brain health, giving us the ability to make smarter food choices every time we sit down to a meal.
There is increasing evidence from many studies showing fish oils have a beneficial impact on inflammation. We believe that our fish oil, based on lab testing are superior to most others in this regard. We believe that this may be a result of the combination of highly concentrated Omega3 from Tuna, combined with non-concentrated New Zealand Hoki oil, which also retains fractions that are usually missing from concentrated oils. In fact, our chairman about a year ago had his CRP-levels checked and the lab was amazed that his levels were the lowest they’ve ever seen! The only thing he can put it down to is his daily intake of Xtend-Life’s Omega-3/DHA fish oil.