A recent study has confirmed a link between a pro-inflammatory diet and higher risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack or stroke.
An association between chronic inflammation and cardiovascular disease has been well established. Acute inflammation normally occurs after an injury or infection. Blood vessels dilate, allowing healing white blood cells into the area. The swelling goes away when recovery is complete. With chronic inflammation, the body initiates the same response. But instead of eventually ending, it continues indefinitely and begins to affect the blood vessels feeding the heart, brain and other areas of the body.
Many lifestyle choices can promote chronic inflammation, including poor diet. A pro-inflammatory diet—which is typically loaded with an overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids—can exacerbate inflammation. Not only do omega-6s send messages to the body to increase inflammation, they also lower the body’s ability to produce protective, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids to counteract the inflammation.
In this study, researchers aimed to assess the association between the dietary inflammatory index (a method that gauges the inflammatory potential of foods) and heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular-related death.
They followed 18,794 people for 8.9 years and evaluated diet using a 136-item food frequency questionnaire.
Results showed that “the risk for cardiovascular events progressively increased with each increased quartile of dietary inflammatory index.” This means that the more inflammation-causing foods eaten, the greater the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death.
Ramallal R, et al. PLoS One. 2015 Sep 4;10(9):e0135221.