Is There an Anti-Inflammation Diet?
Anti-inflammation is the latest buzz term among diet books and eating advisors. There is a growing body of research suggesting inflammation increases the risk of many chronic diseases, including some types of cancer. For years, AICR-supported studies and others have examined how diet and lifestyle play a role in chronic inflammation.
Here are the basics:
Inflammation: When It’s Too Much of a Good Thing
When we get injured or infected, our body’s immune cells spring into action. Immune cells travel through the bloodstream to the injured area, and they call in more immune cells. We can sometimes see the effects of the increased blood flow and immune cells to an injured area when it becomes red, warm and/or swells.
This is acute inflammation and it’s a normal, protective response. It happens immediately and can last from hours to days. When it ends, the increased immune cells die and/or disperse.
But when the immune response never ends it can become harmful. And when the body is in a state of constant, low-level inflammation, called chronic inflammation, it can actualy promote tumor development.
Simple Lifestyle Steps to Anti-Inflammation
Here are a few simple steps you can take to prevent (or reduce) chronic inflammation:
Stay at–or get to–a healthy body weight:
Scientists now know that body fat is an active metabolic tissue that pumps out hormones and other substances the body needs. But excess body fat can lead to high levels of certain hormones and proteins, which can then trigger inflammation throughout the body.
Evidence shows that excess body fat plays a convincing role in seven cancers, including endometrial, esophageal, and post-menopausal breast. Its role in chronic inflammation may be one reason why.
Be physically active:
Studies suggest that physical activity may play a role in reducing chronic inflammation. People who exercise regularly have lower signs of chronic inflammation. AICR’s expert report found that physical activity reduces the risk of colorectal cancer, and probably post-menopausal breast and endometrial cancer as well. It also was found to decrease the risk of gaining weight and being overweight.
Physical activity by itself and/or its role in maintaining a healthy weight may be the reason it lowers inflammation. Either way, the benefits of physical activity are clear, for cancer and many other diseases.
AICR recommends 30 minutes or more of daily moderate physical activity for cancer prevention. People looking to lose weight may need 60 minutes or more.
Eat a plant-based diet:
Studies suggest a plantbased diet loaded with vegetables, fruits and beans may decrease inflammation. Many plant foods are high in antioxidants, which can slow or inhibit inflammation. A plant-based diet will also help you stay at–or get to–a healthy weight.
An anti-inflammation diet does not have to be complicated. For a simple, visual approach to eating for cancer prevention, try AICR’s New American Plate.
If you are looking for an anti-inflammatory diet book, look for one that promotes an overall healthy eating plan rather than one that only focuses on individual foods or supplements. Don’t believe books that promise cures for a long list of diseases–research doesn’t back that up. As with any healthy eating plan, it should include a wide variety of foods, with plenty of vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. Any approach to reducing inflammation should also at least mention a healthy weight and physical activity.
AICR's Facts on Preventing Cancer: Inflammation offers more information on inflammation and cancer.
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