Is the anti-inflammatory diet the secret to longer life?

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New research shows that coffee, red wine and chocolate could reduce the risk of early death, due to their anti-inflammatory properties.

By Anna Bonet

Coffee, chocolate and wine lovers rejoice: new research suggests that consuming anti-inflammatory food and drink such as these could be the secret to a longer, healthier life.

The study, published by the Journal of Internal Medicine, analysed data from 68,000 Swedish men and women, and found that those who had a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods were 18 per cent less likely to die prematurely than those who did not. In particular, they had a 13 per cent lower risk of dying from cancer and a 20 per cent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases.

According to the lead author of the study, Joanna Kaluza, ‘even partial adherence to the anti-inflammatory diet may provide a health benefit.’ But what exactly is an anti-inflammatory diet? Registered nutritionist Jenna Hope gives us the lowdown on how to follow an effective anti-inflammatory diet:

What is the anti-inflammatory diet?

The anti-inflammatory diet is an eating plan designed to reduce or prevent inflammation, which is the root of many cancers, heart diseases and even Alzheimer’s. Inflammation can be brought about by conditions like arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as lifestyle factors such as stress and lack of exercise.

The anti-inflammatory diet is an eating plan designed to reduce or prevent inflammation

Because of this, an anti-inflammatory diet is widely regarded as a healthy lifestyle choice, backed by scientific evidence. To follow the diet, you must simply consume more foods with anti-inflammatory properties, and fewer foods which are highly processed.

‘I would recommend incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods into the diet,’ says Hope. ‘There include eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables which are high in antioxidants and promote anti-inflammatory effects, and ensuring adequate intake of omega-3 particularly oily fish. Omega-3 is known for it’s anti-inflammatory effects.’

‘If you’re vegan you may wish to consider supplementation as plant sources of omega-3 have to be converted into the active form before being utilised by the body,’ Hope adds. ‘Although it’s important to seek personalised advice before supplementing.’

‘Spices are also well known for their anti-inflammatory effects,’ says Hope, ‘namely turmeric which contains its active ingredient curcumin.’

What’s the catch?

Consuming a diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables, fish and whole-grains doesn’t carry a health risk. However, while coffee and dark chocolate are also high in antioxidants, Hope has some reservations:

‘If you’re experiencing high levels of diagnosed inflammation it would be recommended to focus on reducing caffeine consumption and sugar intake.’

Red wine has many anti-inflammatory properties, but proceed with caution

Similarly, red wine has many anti-inflammatory properties, but proceed with caution, because there have been numerous separate studies that advocate avoiding alcohol consumption altogether.

‘It’s important to note that simply eating more of an anti-inflammatory diet may not generate many effects if you’re leading a highly stressful lifestyle,’ warns Hope. ‘Therefore it is recommended to reassess your stress levels and exercise alongside the diet when attempting to manage inflammation.’

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