Pro-inflammatory diets may increase cardiovascular disease risk

People who eat diets known to promote chronic inflammation—including foods and drinks such as refined grains, sugary beverages, and red and processed meat—may have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease than people who eat anti-inflammatory diets, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Foods and drinks with known anti-inflammatory properties include leafy greens, whole grains, and coffee and tea.

The study was published November 2, 2020 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

While inflammation is an important, normal step in the body’s immune response, chronic inflammation can damage healthy tissues.

The researchers followed more than 200,000 women and men from the Nurses Health Study I and II, and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, for up to 32 years. They found that those who ate the most pro-inflammatory diets had a 46% greater risk of heart disease and a 28% greater risk of stroke than those who had the most anti-inflammatory diets.

This study is one of the first to analyze the effects of pro- and anti-inflammatory diets on cardiovascular disease risk, lead author Jun Li, a research scientist in the Department of Nutrition, said in a November 2, 2020 Consumer Reports article. Li noted that the findings could help in the development of dietary guidelines for controlling inflammation.

Read the Consumer Reports article: Cut Back on Inflammatory Foods to Protect Your Heart and Brain