Can Avoiding Inflammatory Foods Lower Heart Disease, Stroke Risk?

Updated on June 19th, 2021
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid

Food items loaded with trans-fats, sugar, carbohydrates, etc., have always been linked to diabetes, obesity, etc. They have also been linked with increased inflammation in our bodies. But did you know these inflammatory foods can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and strokes as well?

The latest research finds that foods like processed meat, red meat, sugary beverage, etc., increase these heart issues, compared to a diet filled with anti-inflammatory foods [1]. The findings were published in the JACC (Journal of the American College of Cardiology).

This research included over 210,000 participants who completed a survey every 4 years that listed their dietary patterns.

As per a review published on the website of American College of Cardiology, “The scientists used an empirically developed, food-based dietary index to evaluate levels of inflammation associated with a dietary intake that was based on 18 pre-defined food groups that together showed the strongest links with an increase in inflammatory biomarkers,”.

After their research, the experts noticed that foods high in fiber and antioxidants could help battle inflammation in the body. Such foods include pumpkin, green leafy vegetables, beans, yellow peppers, carrots, whole grains, etc.

They found that dietary patterns with higher inflammatory potential were linked with an increased rate of cardiovascular disease [2]. Their study is among the first to associate a food-based dietary inflammatory index with a long-term heart disease risk.

The scientists further recommended some inflammatory foods that one must consume or avoid in a limited quantity.

Inflammatory Foods to Avoid

Here’re a few Inflammatory Foods To Avoid:

1. Refined Sugars 

Refined sugar can lead to inflammation in the body that can further counteract the positive effects of other healthy nutrients in the body [3].

High-sugar diets have been linked with an increased risk of several diseases, including cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death globally.

Proof suggests that high-sugar diets may lead to inflammation, obesity, and high triglyceride, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels — all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Moreover, consuming excessive sugar, particularly from sugar-sweetened beverages, has been associated with atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by fatty, artery-clogging deposits.

Research in over 30,000 individuals found that those who consumed 17–21% of calories from added sugar had a 38% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those consuming only 8% of calories from added sugar.

Just 473-ml (one 16-ounce) can of soda has 52 grams of sugar, which equates to more than 10% of the daily calorie consumption, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. This means that one sugary beverage a day can already put you over the recommended daily limit for added sugar.

[Read: Anti-Inflammatory Foods That You Must Try Now]

2. Refined Grains 

Refined grains have a finer texture, making them a preferable choice in a recipe. But in the grains’ refining process, they lose minerals, vitamins, and other healthy nutrients. As a result, this can hamper the anti-inflammatory effects of grains [4].

Research shows that high consumption of refined carbs is associated with high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. Refined carbs also spike blood triglyceride levels. This is a risk factor for both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

One research in Chinese adults showed that over 85% of the total carbohydrate intake came from refined carbohydrates, mainly refined wheat and white rice products.

The research also demonstrated that individuals who ate the most refined carbs were 2 to 3 times more likely to get cardiovascular disease than those who ate the least.

[ReadQuick Anti-Inflammatory Breakfast Ideas]

3. Fried Foods

These foods include burgers, French fries, pizzas, onion rings, et al. They are high on trans-fat and can lead to multiple health issues. Eating fried foods can contribute to low “good” HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity, all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

In fact, two large observational trials noted that the more often people ate fried foods, the greater their risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

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One research found that women eating one or more servings of fried fish per week had a 48% higher risk of cardiac failure compared to those who took one to three servings per month.

On the other end, increased broiled or baked fish intake was associated with a lower risk. Another observational research observed that a diet rich in fried foods was linked with a significantly higher risk of a heart attack.

Meanwhile, those who ate a diet high in vegetables and fruits were at a significantly lower risk.

4. Soda

Another food item high on trans-fats and added sugar is soda or sugary drink. Sugar intake has long been associated with heart disease risk. It is well established that sugar-sweetened beverages increase heart disease risk factors, including blood triglycerides, high blood sugar, and small, dense LDL particles.

Recent human studies found a strong link between sugar intake and heart disease risk in all populations.

One 20-year research in 40,000 men concluded that those who drank one sugary drink per day had a 20% higher risk of having — or dying from — a cardiac attack compared to men who rarely consumed sugary beverages.

5. Red meat 

Red Meat is one of the initial food products health experts recommend avoiding any health-related problems like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. Red meat is high on fat and can lead to inflammation in the body.

Bottom Line

Chronic inflammation does not produce symptoms — the only way to measure it is with a blood test, and most people are not regularly screened for inflammation.

Making wise and healthy lifestyle choices is the best way to lower that risk factor, although physicians may also prescribe a statin drug for those with a higher risk of cardiac disease. Your physician can determine your risk level and what the next steps are most appropriate for you.

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