The Root of Deadly Disease

In the quest to rid the world of its deadliest diseases, researchers conduct complex, long-term studies of the effects of food, supplements and the environment on the human body and analyze mountains of clinical data. The hope is always to uncover a cure for diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, diabetes, heart disease and cancer that claim millions of lives every year. These conditions often baffle even the most intellectual of minds and are a result of one cruel antagonist of all things signifying health – chronic inflammation.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and other irritants that may invade the intricate workings of your anatomy. It is an endless borage of these irritants – a poor diet, excess body fat, smoking, etc. – that can overstimulate the immune system and lead to an increased risk of disease. When inflammation becomes chronic, it can cause life-threatening damage to cells all over the body and lay the groundwork for heart attacks, diabetes, strokes and even certain forms of cancer.

The evidence that certain foods and obesity increase the level of inflammation within the body suggests that the onslaught of disease can be reversed or, at the very least, minimized with weight loss and a healthy eating plan. Abdominal fat in particular, has been linked to the continuous release of inflammatory molecules that spread rapidly throughout the body, causing deadly harm.

While your diet is closely linked to raising inflammation levels, your weight plays a more substantial role. You can consume a very healthy diet, but if your weight is 300 pounds, your inflammation levels will remain high until the pounds come off. Levels of inflammation are determined by simple blood test, measuring the amount of CRP (C-reactive protein) in the bloodstream. Research has shown that weight loss, as little as two pounds, can reduce CRP levels.

Studies are underway across the country testing the efficacy of certain foods, such as fiber, milk and omega-3 fatty acids in the battle against inflammation. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, found that increased consumption of dietary fiber is associated with lower levels of CRP.

At Vanderbilt University, researchers are currently examining the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on colorectal cancers and their potential to diminish the production of inflammatory molecules.  An imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids within the body has long been associated with increased levels of inflammation.

The battle against inflammation is not complex. It does, however, require diligence. There are several factors to keep in mind to ensure your body does not harbor high levels of inflammatory molecules:

  • Food sensitivities may contribute to inflammation; therefore it is important to determine which foods irritate your system through an elimination diet.
  • Women taking oral birth control pills should discuss alternative methods with their doctor. Oral estrogens have been linked to increased levels of CRP. Transdermal estrogen (the patch) is a safer, more effective alternative.
  • Men suffering from low testosterone levels should monitor their levels of CRP closely. Low testosterone is associated with increased levels of CRP and thickening of the carotid artery – a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

You must adhere to a healthy lifestyle, including not smoking, and manage a healthy weight through routine exercise and choosing foods that do not contribute to inflammation.  Vegetables, nuts, plant oils, fish and whole-grains are part of a healthy, balanced diet and these foods include essential nutrients, like fiber and omega-3s to help fight inflammation. Certain herbs and supplements are also effective inflammation fighters, such as curcumin (found in turmeric), green tea extract and EPA/DHA fish oil supplements.