Author: Rositsa Tashkova, Master of Molecular Biology and Microbiology

Western diet

The Western diet, which unfortunately has already become the norm in many countries, is the cause of the widespread diseases of "modern man". More and more links are being found between this type of diet and the development of autoimmune, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

In this article, we will look at which foods cause inflammation in the body and what we can replace them with in an attempt to lead a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle.

 

The Root Of The Problem

A 2018 study [ref.1] shows that our body reacts to unhealthy eating as it would react to a bacterial infection.

The scientists fed mice with a diet rich in salt, sugar and saturated fat for 1 month and found the alarming effect. This diet is characteristic of the so-called Western diet, which unfortunately prevails in developed countries, which unfortunately prevails in developed countries.

What's more, the aggressive immune response triggered by junk food can linger in the body for too long and cause additional damage. And switching to a healthy diet will not automatically restore balance - once the cascade of immune events in the body is unlocked, it is difficult to stop.

This can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Essentially, unhealthy eating leads to inflammation in the body, which can trigger other severe diseases. It can manifest itself in various forms, one of which is a feeling of stiffness and pain in the joints and muscles.

Learn which herbs suppress inflammation from the article Herbs for autoimmune disease sufferers and transplanted patients.

 

Food Allergies And Intolerance

It is important to distinguish between food allergies and food intolerance.

Food allergy is similar to that of other allergens - the body mistakenly recognizes a substance in food as an enemy and reacts violently through an allergic inflammatory reaction to even the smallest amount of the substance. Symptoms are characteristic: skin rash, itching, redness, swelling of the tongue, lips, face, difficulty breathing, and in severe cases - anaphylactic shock, which directly threatens life.

Read more in the article What are food allergies.

Unlike allergies, food intolerance does not manifest itself with such distinct symptoms. Moreover, food intolerance is not an immune reaction, but is often due to a deficiency of certain enzymes. Symptoms appear much later - hours or days after food consumption. They are often associated with gastrointestinal disorders, but can also be similar to those of food allergy.

The most common types of food intolerance are associated with lactose (in dairy products), histamine (in dried fruits, avocado, fermented products, aged cheese, vinegar, beer, wine, citrus), sulphites (preservatives, grapes, aged cheese), gluten, fructose, salicylates (in various plant products), caffeine.

 

Sugar

Sugar consists of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Fructose is found in small amounts in fruits, but sugar delivers too much fructose into the body and it becomes a danger.

The fructose-rich diet leads to severe conditions and diseases such as obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer and chronic kidney diseases.

In addition, fructose causes inflammation in the tissue of blood vessels, which is a prerequisite for cardiovascular diseases.

added sugar

Fructose also increases the levels of several inflammatory markers in the body, that is, it increases inflammation in our body. It has even been found that sugar can suppress the anti-inflammatory action of omega-3 fatty acids. [ref.2]

You can replace refined sugar with fruit, especially dates, which are often used as a substitute for healthy sweets. Honey is no less caloric, but healthier than sugar.

Read more in the article Sweetness from nature - how to replace refined sugar with natural sweeteners.

 

Vegetable Fats

Vegetable fats are too rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which although necessary in small quantities, with an inadequate ratio between them and omega-3 fatty acids, they lead to inflammation. [ref.3]

Modern diet leads to repeatedly inflated levels of omega-6. Therefore, it is recommended to eat foods rich in omega-3 in order to compensate for and balance the ratio between the two types of fats.

And the healthy omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is somewhere between 1:1 and 4:1, while the western diet provides a ratio between 15:1 and 17:1.

Rich in omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, mackerel, sardines, linseed, walnuts, yogurt and others.

Read more in the article Why omega-3 fatty acids are healthy and what they are used for.

 

Artificial Trans-Fats Or Partially Hydrogenated Fats

It is difficult to find a product on the market in which artificial trans-fats, still referred to as (partially) hydrogenated fats, are not present.

Meat and dairy products also contain trans fats, but they are natural and do not have the negative influence of artificial trans fats, namely an increase in inflammation, damage to the walls of blood vessels, a decrease in good cholesterol (HDL). [ref.4]

margarine is harmful

High in harmful fats are fried foods, margarine, sweets and many other delicious but dangerous foods.

We can avoid them by monitoring the label content of any product we decide to purchase, avoid frying and fried foods, in no case do we consume margarine and products that contain it.

 

High-Heat Processed Meats 

It has been found that the consumption of highly processed meats and sausages leads to inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and stomach cancer, and the strongest is the link with colorectal cancer [ref.5].

They increase inflammation in the body due to high levels of harmful substances called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These substances are formed when proteins or fats combine with blood sugar and the process is called glycation. But the process also takes place in foods that have been exposed to high temperatures, such as grilling, frying or toasting - these foods are very high in harmful compounds.

It is preferable to prepare the meat slowly and at a lower temperature, without frying or grilling.

 

Meat From Animals Treated With Antibiotics; Fruit And Vegetables Treated With Pesticides

Organic farming is gaining increasing popularity at the expense of industrial farming, where animals are bred with excessive use of antibiotics and growth hormones and fruits and vegetables are treated with huge amounts of pesticides.

organic farming

From meat and plants, these dangerous substances come to our table. An additional problem is the pollution of the environment with them, which leads to the death of many animals, as well as to the development of resistance in bacteria.

It is believed that the consumption of meat from animals kept with large amounts of growth hormones may lead to the premature onset of puberty in children. In 1960, synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES) was used to prevent miscarriage in women, which was found to increase the risk of vaginal cancer in the daughters of pregnant women treated with the preparation. It is then banned for use. Unfortunately, various synthetic hormones are used in animal husbandry today, the potential effect of which on people consuming such meat has not yet been specified.

Therefore, buying food from small producers who raise their animals freely is preferable. If you do not feel the difference in products - change the manufacturer until you find the taste of your childhood.

 

Refined Carbs

Refined carbohydrates are contained in candy, bread, pasta, sweets, some cereals, cookies, sugary soft drinks and all processed foods that contain added sugar or flour.

In these foods there is a lack of fiber, which is necessary for the development of good intestinal microflora. [ref.6]

Fast carbohydrates strongly and quickly increase blood sugar levels and in the long run can lead to insulin resistance or diabetes.

The effects of nutrition on the immune system of the mucous membrane of the intestine and on the metabolic state of the body may represent additional factors acting in combination with others, for example, infectious factors that unlock autoimmune diseases. [ref.7]

Wholegrain flours, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables are preferable - anything that increases our fiber intake, as well as avoiding unnecessary pasta and pastries.

 

Alcohol

Excessive alcohol use leads to increased inflammation in the body and a number of diseases that can affect all organs and systems, including the liver and intestines.

It is advisable that men do not consume more than 2 standard drinks per day, and women - no more than 1.

 

The food we take can be medicine or poison. It is up to us whether we prefer one or the other and whether we will be able to build proper eating habits and healthy taste in ourselves andour children.

 

References:

  1. Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming, 2018, Cell
  2. Sucrose counteracts the anti-inflammatory effect of fish oil in adipose tissue and increases obesity development in mice, 2011, PLoS ONE
  3. Health implications of high dietary omega-6 polyunsaturated Fatty acids, 2012, Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism
  4. Consumption of trans fatty acids is related to plasma biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction, 2005, Journal of Nutrition
  5. Consumption of Red/Processed Meat and Colorectal Carcinoma: Possible Mechanisms Underlying the Significant Association, 2016, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition
  6. Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity, 2012, Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy
  7. Role of "Western Diet" in Inflammatory Autoimmune Diseases, 2015, Current Allergy and Asthma Reports

 

The author:

👩 🔬 Rositsa Tashkova-Kacharova has a Bachelor degree in Molecular Biology and a Master's degree in Microbiology and Microbiological Control. She completed her Master's thesis at the University of Nantes, France. At that time she painted a Christmas tree of bacteria and inspired the announcement of the first competition for drawing with microorganisms Agar Art. For 3 years she was the editor of the journal Bulgarian Science and continues to write about science and medicine.