The one leading cause of disease

If you have arthritis or asthma, then chances are you have something in common with sufferers of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression and Alzheimer’s.

That is not to suggest that if you have one of these illnesses you are more likely to contract one of the others. But there is a common culprit behind these diseases – low-grade inflammation.

Since it was dubbed ‘the secret killer’ in a Time magazine article a decade ago, considerable research has been done to understand if inflammation can be circumvented.

Increasingly, researchers are looking into how modern diets could be increasing the level of what is essentially the body’s frontline response to tissue trauma.

Inflammation kicks in even when you acquire something as minor as a splinter in your finger. It is a mechanism that is supposed to limit infection and allow the body to begin healing.

But in cases where the body’s regulatory mechanism of inflammation is defective or the ability to clear damaged tissue and foreign substances is impaired, the response can get out of control and lead to disease.

Among the measures you can take to stay on top of potential inflammation is asking your doctor to order blood tests and watching what types of foods you eat.

Recently, Spanish researchers put a dietary inflammatory index under the microscope and their results showed “strong and consistent support for the hypothesis that a pro-inflammatory diet is associated with increased all-cause mortality”.

Among the findings were that red meat, processed foods high in sugar, unhealthy fats and food additives all promoted inflammation, a report in The Age revealed.

Foods that were anti-inflammatory included extra virgin olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, whole grains and red wine.

Plants high in polyphenols, such as kale, blueberries and salmon, are also thought to be good at fighting inflammation.

Writing for The Age, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow and nutritionist at the University of South Australia Natalie Parletta said: “Although the impact of chronic inflammation is not immediate nor obvious, this research suggests that food is inflaming people.

“And a diet with a higher anti-inflammatory potential is likely to reduce many potential causes of premature death.

“So treat your body. Tuck into some grilled salmon with succulent vegetables infused with extra virgin olive oil, a spicy vegetable curry with dal or a warm Mediterranean roast vegetable salad with quinoa and parsley, topped with mint yoghurt.

“The benefits appear to be greater than previously thought.”

Do you know if you suffer from inflammation? What tips can you share to help reduce inflammation? Will you ask your doctor to order a blood test to check for inflammation?

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Olga Galacho

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