Four Foods That Cause Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a persistent, low-grade inflammation. Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation can have long-term and whole-body effects.

Inflammation is a vital part of the immune system’s response to injury and infection. It is the body’s way of signaling the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue.

Without inflammation as a physiological response, wounds would fester, and infections could become deadly.

Acute inflammation is typically a good thing. It helps the body immediately begin to heal from injury or fight infection. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is often a bad thing. It can last months or years, and—instead of protecting—it can eventually start damaging the body’s healthy cells, tissues, and organs.

Acute inflammation occurs after a cut on the knee, a sprained ankle or a sore throat.

During acute inflammation, chemicals known as cytokines are released by the damaged tissue. The cytokines act as “emergency signals” that bring in your body’s immune cells, hormones and nutrients to fix the problem.

Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation can have long-term and whole-body effects. Chronic inflammation is also called persistent, low-grade inflammation because it produces a steady, low-level of inflammation throughout the body.

Chronic inflammation is the cause of, or a significant contributor to, most major chronic diseases. These include, among others, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, allergic asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and even cancer and Alzheimer disease.

Avoid these four foods to protect your body from chronic inflammation:


We consume way too much added sugar. Adult men take in an average of 24 teaspoons of added sugar per day, according to the National Cancer Institute. That’s equal to 384 calories.

“Excess sugar’s impact on obesity and diabetes is well documented, but one area that may surprise many men is how their taste for sugar can have a serious impact on their heart health,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

How sugar actually affects heart health is not completely understood, but it appears to have several indirect connections. For instance, high amounts of sugar overload the liver. “Your liver metabolizes sugar the same way as alcohol, and converts dietary carbohydrates to fat,” says Dr. Hu. Over time, this can lead to a greater accumulation of fat, which may turn into fatty liver disease, a contributor to diabetes, which raises your risk for heart disease.

Consider eating more foods that are naturally sweet, such as fruits instead of foods with added refined sugar, like candy, to indulge your sweet-tooth craving.

Red and processed meats

Eating red and processed meat is associated with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, stomach cancer, and, especially, colorectal cancer.

TMAO, aka trimethlyamine oxide – not that you need remember that – is a molecule linked to cardiovascular disease, an inflammatory condition.

TMAO is produced in the body from dietary carnitine. Carnitine is found in animal muscle tissue. It is not an essential nutrient for human consumption, as our own bodies make it.

When we eat carnitine, our gut bacteria breaks it down into a molecule called TMA, which is then converted by our liver to TMAO. Studies show that vegans and vegetarians produce less TMAO from carnitine than omnivores, suggesting that the regular consumption of meat changes our microbiome to a pro-atherogenic profile.

Refined Carbohydrates

Eating too many refined carbohydrates, such as those found in breads, cakes, pasta, and sugar-rich foods, raises the amount of insulin in your blood. This not only leads to prolonged systemic inflammation, but also depletes your body’s reservoir of essential nutrients.

Fried Foods

Fried foods, particularly those from fast food joints, may contain trans fats. Many restaurants use trans fats in frying oil intentionally because those oils last longer in the fryer. But the vegetable oils most chains now use contain small amounts of trans fat, and the more the oil is reused, the more trans fats will be present.

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