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Anti-Inflammatory Diet Reduces Risk of Early Death

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A study recently published in the Journal of Internal Medicine reports that adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet can prolong life, reducing risk of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, or any cause. This effect is particularly strong for smokers.

The study followed 68,273 Swedish men and women, aged 45 to 83 years at the beginning of the study, over a 16-year period. Using a measure which evaluated consumption of 11 potential anti-inflammatory and 5 potential pro-inflammatory foods, researchers estimated the anti-inflammatory potential of participants' diets. During the 16 years of follow-up, 16,088 deaths were reported, including 5,980 from cardiovascular disease and 5,252 from cancer. Participants with the best adherence to the anti-inflammatory diet had an all-cause mortality risk that was 18% lower than that of participants with the least anti-inflammatory diet. They also had a 20% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 13% lower risk of cancer-related death.

The contrast was even more startling for current smokers, with those who adhered best to the anti-inflammatory diet experiencing a 31% lower risk of all-cause mortality, 36% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and 22% lower risk of cancer-related mortality than smokers whose diet did not adhere to anti-inflammatory measures. The combination of smoking and an inflammatory diet led to stark results: current smokers with the worst dietary habits had a median survival time 4.6 years shorter than that of lifetime non-smokers who adhered best to the anti-inflammatory diet.

Anti-inflammatory foods include tomatoes, olive oil, leafy green vegetables, nuts, fish, and fruits. Foods that induce inflammation include refined carbohydrates, sugar-sweetened beverages, red meat, processed meat, and products high in saturated fat such as fried foods, margarine, shortening, and lard. According to Joanna Kaluza, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, even taking small steps toward the anti-inflammatory diet can help to an extent: "Our dose-response analysis showed that even partial adherence to the anti-inflammatory diet may provide a health benefit."

For More Information

Harvard Health Publishing (2017). "Foods that fight inflammation." Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation

Kaluza J, Håkansson N, Harris HR, et al (2018). Influence of anti-inflammatory diet and smoking on mortality and survival in men and women: two prospective cohort studies. J Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print] DOI:10.1111/joim.12823

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