Fat, Foods and Inflammation
There are many things that can cause an incorrect immune response and lead to chronic inflammation. Some are genetic, and cannot be changed (but can be helped). More often, however, they are lifestyle factors and can be changed.
Food, of course is a big factor, not just what we eat but what we should not be eating. Smoking is a significant source of inflammation as well. UV radiation, stress, and environmental toxins, such as heavy metals and pesticides, can be sources of inflammation as well.
However, many scientists think the biggest factor in chronic inflammation might be weight. Excess fat tissue leads to chronic inflammation!
The Fat and Inflammation Story
Researchers are now beginning to realize that fat is more than just storage of excess calories. The mistake many people make is to consider fat as just unwanted weight. Their concern (other than looks) is that it is dangerous only because it increases the work of the heart and body.
Actually, fat cells also “act like small factories to churn out molecules known as cytokines, which set inflammation in motion,” says Peter Libby, a professor at Harvard Medical School.
This is an important message: fat doesn’t just harm us just because of weight, they harm us through inflammation. How does this work?
Well, adipose tissue is a secretory organ and a storage depot for fat. Adipose tissue releases free fatty acids (building blocks of fat) into the blood to feed the rest of the body in time of need. Now, fat cell function is regulated by hormones and neurotransmitters. Adipose tissue secretes proteins, peptides, and lipid factors that modulate fat cell function.
In a normal weight person, adipocytes release a number of hormones and hormone-like cytokines, known as adipokines. These control various aspects of our appetite and our immune system. Of importance to inflammation are the adipokines, two of which are pro-inflammatory messengers TNFa and IL-6. (See the Inflammation Story.)
Fat > releases adipocytes,
Adipocytes > releases adipokines, (most are good)
Adipokines > releases TNFa and IL-6.
Fat is good, we need it! However, fat, like any other organ in your body, has an ideal proportion. Fat functions best when at that proportion. When there is too much fat, it releases more hormones and adipokines inflammatory messengers – including TNFa and IL-6. Secretion of free fatty acids and inflammatory mediators by adipose tissue is profoundly increased in obese human subjects.
In addition, the increased level of fat “turns on” macrophages (mentioned in “Story” above). Once turned on, the macrophages release more TNFa and IL-6 as well. Recent findings indicate that chronic inflammation plays a pivotal role in increasing fat levels. Fat promotes inflammation by both pro-inflammatory messengers and macrophages.
The good news is that even moderate weight loss can cause significant reduction in pro-inflammatory messenger activity. As weight is lost, fat cells shrink and begin to release normal amounts of pro-inflammatory messengers. Macrophages stop being turned on, and begin to leave the fat as well. With less macrophage activity, less TNFa and IL-6 are released. As the overall grade of inflammation reduces, inflammatory foods start to be better regulated by our body, causing less inflammation or perhaps none at all!
Spice is Nice
The most important foods that play a part in lowering chronic inflammation are fruits, vegetables and, most essential, spices!
(Note: As you read on, it can seem like a challenge to achieve an inflammation-free body. For most people, the only way to cure inflammation diseases is to change your lifestyle. We encourage people to lead as healthy a life as possible. However, that being said, by far the easiest and most powerful way to reduce chronic inflammation is through the spice herbs and nutrients we put in our anti-inflammation formula.)
A lot of attention has been focused recently on turmeric and green tea as anti-inflammatory spices. Turmeric does contain a high number of active anti-inflammatory (and we use it in our anti-inflammation formula). However, most all spices and herbs contain anti-inflammatory compounds – usually several. Most drugs target only single pathways, but the anti-inflammatory compounds in…
Herbs and spices target Multiple pathways!
All spices turn down the production of TNFa, NFkB, IL-6, and other inflammatory messengers (therefore also aiding in the prevention of cancer). (We have, of course, included the 10 bestspice herbs and nutrients in our formula for best results!)
Garlic, Onions, Horseradish contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, such as allicin, quercitin, and allyl isothiocyanate. For maximum efficacy, they should be chopped and eaten raw, but their pungency can often preclude that. (Let them sit at least one minute after chopping them before cooking them. This lets the anti-inflammatory compounds completely form.)
Foods Which Fight Chronic Inflammation
(The rest of this article is a quick and easy review of other general changes that will help relieve chronic inflammation – and the steps which are the easiest to do.
Though not fully understood, many plants contain chemical compounds which actively turn down TNFa, NFkB, IL-6, and CRP activity. Other foods help prevent absorption or utilization of bad foods, leading to a more anti-inflammatory response. Overall, the addition of these foods to your diet will help turn the tables on inflammation, leading to recovery.
Alcohol: What? Surprisingly, moderate alcohol consumption (1-2 drinks a day) has been linked with lower circulating levels of CRP. So, a glass of wine or a beer can be an effective way to reduce chronic inflammation. (Excess alcohol consumption is, of course, not good – but you know that anyway.) J
Carbs & Sugar: Refined carbohydrates and excess sugar can both cause our blood glucose levels to spike, releasing extra IL-6 and TNFa – pro-inflammatory messengers.
Exercise: Yes, it is not a food, but exercise is actually associated with increased levels of IL-6 and has numerous other benefits, all of which help your body better regulate its inflammatory response.
Fruits and Vegetables: (No surprise here.) Regardless of what else you believe about food, there is no denying the power of vegetables. All fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients that turns down pro-inflammatory genes and combats inflammation and disease in general. Phytonutrients are not fully understood, but it is not a far stretch to imagine that our body relies on compounds found only in plants to help regulate its self. We know that the battle is much easier when we load up on them.
Fatty Acids: Most people know that diets high in trans-fatty acids and saturated fatty acids can have pro-inflammatory effects. Small amounts are ok, but large amounts cause them to be more inflammatory than normal. Of course, these include many processed foods, such as cookies, crackers, and chips.
Green tea vs Coffee: If you are not fighting chronic inflammation, a cup or two of coffee per day is unlikely to lead to problems. However, research does suggest that people who drink 7 oz. or more coffee per day have significantly higher circulating levels of TNFa, IL-6, and CRP. Green tea, on the other hand, reduces inflammation. Try to reduce coffee consumption or make a partial or full switch to green tea.
Meat: Grain-fed meat is also higher in a few other pro-inflammatory compounds, andlower in anti-inflammatory ones. So, if reducing inflammation is a goal, look for grass-fed or pastured meat.
Oils: Coconut and palm oil are also high in saturated fatty acids – but it is important to note that both unrefined oils also have strong anti-inflammatory compounds as well.
Omega-3,-6: Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly the EPA and DHA derivatives, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our body. Oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, or sardines put a higher percentage of omega-3 fatty acids into our cell membranes. Plants, notably flax seeds and chia seeds, can also help.
The most important thing to keep in mind is the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, not just the total amount. The average American diet provides a ratio of roughly 1 to 15. Optimal health lies in the omega-3 of 1 to 4 of the omega-6. (It is much easier to reduce omega-6s than increase omega-3s to match potato chips, etc.)