[5 min read] 5 foods that cause inflammation

Sustained inflammation is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and can also be a symptom of some illnesses such as respiratory conditions. A prevalent component in controlling inflammation in the body – either to prevent inflammation from occurring or to reduce elevated levels of inflammation as a symptom of an existing condition – is through diet.

Taking a holistic approach to managing your patients’ health can significantly improve their overall health and reduce their risk factors. An assessment of their diet and a plan for healthy, goal-oriented eating is often a key part of comprehensive health care. In prescribing such a diet plan, keep in mind these five foods which can significantly affect inflammation in the body.


1. Sugar

Added sugars are harmful because they can increase inflammation and insulin resistance, which leads to disease, and may counteract the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids.

Additionally, added sugars can supply excess amounts of fructose, which is linked to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer, and chronic kidney disease. Fructose can also cause inflammation within the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels, which is a risk factor for heart disease.


2. Artificial trans fats

Artificial trans fats are created by adding hydrogen to liquid unsaturated fats to give them the stability of a more solid fat. They are often added to processed foods to extend shelf life. Examples of foods which contain artificial trans fats include margarine, chips, popcorn, and processed cakes and pastries.

Artificial trans fats have been shown to cause inflammation and increase disease risk. They lower HDL cholesterol, impair the function of the endothelial cells lining the arteries (a risk factor for heart disease), and elevate inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP).


3. Vegetable and seed oils

Some vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, can promote inflammation due to their high omega-6 fatty acid content, of which the typical western diet contains excessive amounts. Vegetable and seed oils are used for cooking and are a major ingredient in many processed foods.


4. Refined carbohydrates

Eating refined carbs may drive inflammation because refined carbs have had most of their fibre removed. Fibre promotes fullness, improves blood sugar control, and feeds beneficial gut bacteria. Refined carbs in modern diets may encourage inflammatory gut bacteria growth that increases risk of obesity and inflammatory bowel disease.

Refined carbs also have a higher glycaemic index than unprocessed ones, which means they raise blood sugar more rapidly. Refined carbs can be found in lollies, bread, pasta, pastries, cakes, and cereals.


5. Alcohol

Alcohol can increase CRP levels and cause problems with bacterial toxins moving out of the colon and into the body. This “leaky gut” condition can drive widespread inflammation and lead to organ damage. Alcohol intake should be limited to two standard drinks per day.

Learn more in the Professional Diploma program in Medical Nutrition Management

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