Anti-inflammatory diets including leafy greens, red wine linked to better heart health: study

Red meat or green, leafy vegetables? Sugary drinks or red wine? Researchers say opting for a diet with anti-inflammatory potential can lower the long-term risk of heart disease.

Findings were published in the Nov. 10 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, among other institutions, followed over 210,000 people across various studies dating back to 1984. Participants answered a survey every four years about their diet.

Opt for a diet with more anti-inflammatory foods, like leafy greens and whole grains, for better heart health, researchers say. (iStock)

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“Our study is among the first to link a food-based dietary inflammatory index with long-term risk of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Jun Li, lead author of the study and research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a news release.

After controlling for other factors, including body mass index (BMI), exercise and family medical history, pro-inflammatory diets revealed a 46% increased risk of heart disease, and the likelihood of a stroke was up by 28% when compared to participants with anti-inflammatory diets, per the release.

To fight inflammation, the study authors suggested green leafy veggies, yellow peppers, whole grains, coffee and wine, among other options. On the other hand, diets contributing to inflammation include red meat, refined sugars, soda and fried food, among others.

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In the study, the authors noted how inflammation plays a major role in the development of heart disease.

“A better knowledge of health protection provided by different foods and dietary patterns, mainly their anti-inflammatory properties, should provide the basis for designing even healthier dietary patterns to protect against heart disease,” Dr. Ramon Estruch, senior consultant in the department of internal medicine at Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, Spain, and author of an accompanying editorial comment, said in the release. 

“When choosing foods in our diet, we should indeed beware of their pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory potential,” Estruch added.

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