Consumers the world over have become more cognizant of their personal health over the last several years—a trend only heightened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, consumers have become more aware of the link between their diets and their personal health.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests yet another way consumers can improve their long-term health through their diets. According to the study’s authors, “Dietary patterns with a higher proinflammatory potential were associated with higher [cardiovascular disease] CVD risk.” In turn, the authors found reducing the inflammatory potential of one’s diet “may potentially provide an effective strategy for CVD prevention.”
The authors of the study—Jun Li, M.D., Ph.D., et al—followed cohorts from three prior studies: 74,578 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS – 1984-2016); 91,656 women from the NHSII (1991–2015); and 3,911 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986–2016). All subjects were free of CVD and cancer at baseline. Subjects’ diets were assessed every four years via questionnaire, with the inflammatory potential of the diet “evaluated using a food-based empirical dietary inflammatory pattern (EDIP) score that was pre-defined based on levels of three systemic inflammatory biomarkers.”
Foods that may cause inflammation in the body include—but are not limited to—added sugars, trans fats, processed and red meats, omega-6 and refined carbohydrates, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The study authors also linked intake of organ meat and sweetened beverages to higher inflammatory potential. Foods linked to higher anti-inflammatory potential included leafy vegetables, dark yellow vegetables, whole grains, fruits, coffee and tea, wine and others.
During the course of the study, the authors documented nearly 16,000 incident CVD cases, which included 9,794 coronary heart disease (CHD) cases and 6,174 strokes. After a pooled analysis, adjusting “for use of anti-inflammatory medications and CVD risk factors including body mass index,” a higher dietary inflammatory potential, indicated by a higher EDIP score, was associated with increased risk of CVD regardless of sex.
Overall, those with higher EDIP scores were 46% more likely to suffer a heart attack and 28% more likely to suffer a stroke than those consuming anti-inflammatory diets.
"Our study is among the first to link a food-based dietary inflammatory index with long-term risk of cardiovascular disease," Li said.