You’d be amazed by how many studies are finding fault with the Western diet. From higher obesity rates to increased cardiovascular disease risk to greater chances of cancer to staggering mortality rates, the Western diet is contributing to a lot of health problems!
Note: The term “Western Diet” is used to refer to the Standard American Diet (SAD), which is characterized by excessive intake of high-sugar drinks, red and processed meats, high-fat dairy products, refined grains, potatoes, and fried foods. While many of these foods aren’t unhealthy on their own, consumed in excess and in combination with unhealthy ingredients leads to an unhealthy diet.
Our Western style of eating has been proven to wreak a lot of havoc on the body. According to a study published in January 2018, it may do more than just affect our digestive system. The results of our Western diet could even be causing problems with our immune systems!
The study found that the Western diet triggered systemic inflammation, or low-grade swelling in the entire body. However, as soon as the mice switched back to their regular chow diet, the systemic inflammation decreased. In fact, it decreased to the point that it was no longer detectable in their bodies.
What happened was the Western diet basically caused genetic reprogramming of the myeloid progenitor cells, the cells that are responsible for the proliferation and reaction of your immune responses. This reprogramming of the immune cells triggered the inflammation around the body. The study found that the Western diet essentially trains your body to activate the inflammatory response to the food you eat.
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What does this mean for you? As we all know, the side effects of chronic systemic inflammation are pretty scary, and may include:
Heart disease. Inflammation can lead to blockages of fatty plaque, arterial narrowing, and blood clots, all of which can lead to heart attacks.
Diabetes. Cytokines released by the body’s inflammatory response can mess with your body’s insulin signaling, increasing resistance to insulin. It can also lead to blood sugar spikes, which triggers another immune response, leading to more inflammation.
Bone health problems. Chronic inflammation can decrease bone growth and lead to an increase in bone mass loss. Cytokines can interfere with bone remodeling, as well as decrease the absorption of important nutrients.
Lung problems. Chronic inflammation can reduce pulmonary function and contribute to problems like asthma or COPD. Inflammation in the lungs can reduce oxygen intake and make breathing difficult.
Cancer. Chronic inflammation has not yet been definitively linked to cancer, but it’s believed to be associated with it. Tumor cells use the inflammatory response’s nutrients and oxygen to grow and spread around the body.
Depression. Depression has been linked to inflammation in the brain, and inflammation can lead to fatigue, sleep problems, and loss of appetite. Cytokines can interfere with hunger signals, affecting your appetite and food cravings.
Anger disorders. People with intermittent explosive disorder tend to have higher inflammatory markers, though the precise link between inflammation and anger disorders hasn’t yet been established clearly.
Suffice it to say, chronic inflammation is NOT something you want to deal with!
As the above-mentioned study proved, our Western diet plays a significant role in training our body’s inflammatory response. In order to decrease the risk of low-grade inflammation, it’s essential that we take steps to correct our diet.
So what can we do?
Eliminate artificial and processed foods. This includes refined sugars, refined grains, artificial sugars and sweeteners, processed meats, and anything that contains high quantities of artificial ingredients: flavorings, preservatives, etc. Getting “back to the basics” and eating all-natural food is the first step toward better health.
Cut bad fats. Note that we said “bad!” Saturated and unsaturated fats are necessary, and they play a role in good health. However, the trans fats and hydrogenated oils in fried, deep fried, and processed foods are one of the primary causes of your inflammation. Try to eliminate these unnecessary and unhealthy fats, and stick with the ones your body needs to be healthy.
Add more fiber-rich foods. The Western diet is characterized by high intake of bad fats and empty carbs, without as much emphasis placed on fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains. Stick with a healthy portion of protein, but make the star of your meals the fiber-rich foods.
A few simple changes to your diet can have massive positive repercussions for your inflammatory health, and your body overall!
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