Is inflammation really coming for us all?

Food and inflammation is a hot (get it) topic at the moment.

Like all hot topics, it’s encouraged a lot of silly people to say a lot of silly things.

But not me! I’m almost never silly. Listen to this podcast to get the information and nuance you deserve, so you can actually make some positive changes to your health without the fearmongering.

Time Stamps
00:00 Introduction to Diet and Inflammation
03:45 Factors in the Diet that Promote Inflammation
06:42 The Dietary Inflammation Index
09:04 The Role of Excess Calories in Inflammation
14:00 Examples of Anti-Inflammatory Dietary Patterns


Jono (00:01.55)
Welcome back to the bite me nutrition podcast. Today, I want to talk to you about diet and its role in inflammation and also inflammation's role in, in disease and things like that, because this is a, a huge and important topic. And unfortunately, a topic that is maybe getting misrepresented unsurprisingly on social media, like most other health topics, but this one in particular seems to be, quite. Topical at the moment. And unfortunately that means that all of the people who don't really know what they're talking about like to jump on this topic to get some attention and views and engagement and also to scare you a little bit because again, that gets them attention, views and engagement. So gonna go through what inflammation is. I'm gonna talk about some different components in your food that may promote inflammation, other components that may have anti -inflammatory effects. Pardon me. Go through a few different dietary patterns, and then actually give you some, a bit of a take home around what you need to be focusing on in relation to diet and inflammation. So I think the first thing is what is inflammation, because immediately I think we think of it as a bad thing, we hear inflammation, we think bad. And there's certainly scenarios where it can be a problem. But it's important to note that it's actually a very normal and natural part of your your body's processes, particularly when it comes to healing, right. And we also need to differentiate between acute, and chronic inflammation. So acute is like in a short moment in time where you've suffered some kind of injury or as we often say in the medical world, insult, which always makes you laugh. Yeah, it's not like a verbal insult, but if your body has suffered some kind of injury, whether that be infection, virus, or you've rolled your ankle or you had a cut, there will be an acute response to that injury or insult or infection.

And that response is going to be an inflammation response. And that's good because that helps your body mount its defenses, all the macrophages, all the, you know, the swelling, all of those things that rush to the site or all of those immune markers that are, you know, increased to fight off the infection. That's part of the inflammatory process. Even muscle growth we're seeing now is...

Jono (02:17.166)
you know, there's sort of low level acute inflammation responses that occur to muscle damage in the gym. And that's really helpful for growing muscle, right? So inflammation in and of itself is not a good or a bad thing. It's quite situationally dependent. Now where inflammation can be more of a problem is when we have this more, I guess, chronic, possibly like lower grade, but chronic look like systemic sustained over time style of inflammation, right? And that is absolutely

style of information that we have been seen has been linked with a number of chronic diseases, it can exacerbate or I guess, accelerate their development, things like heart disease, neurodegenerative, neurodegenerative diseases, cancers, these sorts of things can absolutely be. I don't want to say caused because that's a bit that's a bit too far. But definitely if it can accelerate the development, right. So yes, we do want to be mindful of

inflammation in general, that that chronic low grade systemic inflammation, and then all of the things that can potentially modulate that either speed it up or slow it down. I'm only going to be talking about the nutrients and the food things that can speed it up or slow it down today. There's lots of other things. I could be here all day talking about them. And there's also lots of things that I don't really understand, you know, exercise stress, all those things that's father people to talk about. So I'm going to talk to you about the food.

Just, you might hear people talking about things like CRP, IL or interleukins, so IL -2, 6, 10, these sorts of things. What's the other one? TNF, alpha. These are all fancy sounding things that make me sound smart and hopefully make you listen to me more. But essentially what they are, are they are kind of blood markers of inflammation. They're inflammatory markers and inflammatory things that your body creates. I think the most common one and the most easily assessed one is CRP, C -reactive protein. It probably would, it wouldn't be unsurprising if you have have a condition that might be linked with inflammation that your doctor has asked you to get your CRP levels checked or has included that as part of a random random as part of a standard blood test. So we can technically assess your inflammation status. I need to be careful with that. There's definitely a lot of people promising extra things, but there are a few legitimate blood markers, which is why we can make some

Jono (04:44.11)
some stronger claims around this stuff because we can add interventions and then actually measure if they reduce these inflammatory markers, right? So.

One part of this whole discussion is this, this tool called the dietary dietary inflammation index, which is a kind of a ranking system developed to, as it sounds, as it sounds like to rank the inflammation score of various foods and various diet patterns, right? Both the pro and anti -inflammatory effects of these foods. Now the initial tool was good, but there's sort of a version two that's been created that has taken a few extra things into account. They've added a few more things into the index itself and they've taken like serving size and things into account, which makes this tool way more effective. It's also really good because it doesn't just look at individual nutrients in isolation and anyone who knows anything about nutrition knows that that's really important.

All right. No one just eats vitamin C. You eat vitamin C as part of a food that contains a whole host of other things. And that might be as part of a food that contains both some pro and anti -inflammatory properties. And so it's important to see, well, how does that rank? Like how does that average out as the whole? And then how does that average out as part of your wider diet, which is a theme that we'll be returning to. And so.

That's why I do really like the dietary inflammation index. It's not necessarily something that I would use to calculate. yes, your score is blah with a client, but it can absolutely help direct us towards some, some good foods to focus on and some maybe other strategies to implement as well. so essentially what it does is it ranks foods and diets according to, how anti or pro -inflammatory that they can be. And so in terms of the anti -inflammatory foods,

Jono (06:42.286)
we're looking at foods that are quite high in things like polyphenols, phenolic compounds, terpenes and terpenoids and like some other vitamins and minerals, all of which are really potent anti -inflammatories and antioxidants, right? So that's going to be things like fruits, vegetables, you know, those are your primary sources, herbs and spices and tea and coffee are also really high as well. Chocolate, like high cacao content chocolate is also a really good source of these. These polyphenols in particular. and you get some from like your grains and nuts and season like items as well. So those foods, we could claim are anti -inflammatory because on the whole they contain high amounts of these polyphenols, phenolic compounds, terpenes, terpenoids. and what's the other one that I keep forgetting? No, I think that's all of them. So that's, that's your plant foods, right? So you want to be having a diet that's rich in those to help potentially reduce, the inflammation that you might be developing. Now, another component that is quite anti -inflammatory is the omega -3 content of foods. That's your EPA, DHA, and your ALA fatty acids. Sort of two different classes there. EPA and DHA are found in your fatty fish specifically. So salmon, sardine, mackerel, you can get a little bit, not a little bit, you can also get them from algae, but you're probably gonna be getting that from an algae supplement, not sort of like. Snacking on some out. I don't even know if you can buy algae to eat. But anyway, Omega 3 is very valuable as well. And then you're the kind of the plant based Omega 3s in terms of your, your ALA, that's like flaxseed, chia hemp and things like that. It's really important to try and have a source of both in your diet. Unfortunately, ALA alone does not replace the, the food sources of EPA and DHA. So trying to cover those gaps where you can.

I would say if you can focus on including foods high in polyphenol, I'm not going to go through that list again, that list of, you know, polyphenols and terpenes and terpenoids and whatnot. And then include some omega threes and some omega sixes, which is also the other healthy fats, but your omega threes specifically. Those are the two main things that you want to be focusing on in your diet to improve the anti -inflammatory score of your diet, if you will. And I don't want you to think of score as in like,

Jono (09:04.014)
an A plus or a, what does it go down to E or D or whatever. I just more, you know, in terms of it being a diet that's more promote being anti -inflammatory outcomes rather than a diet that's promoting inflammatory outcomes. And so I guess on the other side of the coin, we can look at what sort of things in our diet are potentially going to promote inflammation, right? And so that's, I would say by far the strongest. One of these appears to be an excess intake of calories. So an excess intake of energy. That is one of the main factors in your diet that will drive inflammation because that well, not often it will result in an excess of body fat and excess body fat releases something called leptin and a few other things, but they're called adipokines and they are inflammatory markers. So fat is actually, we consider it an organ because it has what we call endocrine effects, which essentially means it has releases hormones. And these hormones are messages and signaling molecules that trigger other things downstream. And these do trigger inflammatory processes downstream. So if we have an excess of body fat, we have an excess of these inflammatory processes being triggered. And you can see how there can be a little bit of a cascade of this kind of, you know, not great outcome. So yes, any kind of diet that's going to drive and cause you to eat an excess of calories over time is probably going to result in an excess of body fat, which is potentially going to increase the amount of inflammation that you are experiencing. Now, I know that I don't want to say that so everyone should lose body fat because that's a whole other topic, which is very nuanced. There's certain times in people's lives where that would be I would recommend them not trying to lose body fat. And for certain individuals, I would recommend they never try and lose body fat. It's very complex. And so I'm not taking please don't take that as me saying everyone should lose body fat if they've got excess body fat. There are other non food related, non food, non weight related strategies that you can use as well that are also anti inflammatory, right? So, you know, focusing on a lot more of those anti inflammatory foods like I spoke about before.

Jono (11:13.966)
Another thing as well as trying to reduce your intake of something called advanced glycation end products. Another way of thinking about age, ages, age, age ease. I'm going to say age ease. I think that's what I'm supposed to say. these are compounds as well that are not fantastic, for us in excess. and the most common sources of those, in like fried things like fried foods and also foods that have been cooked and like hit with really high dry heat. So we're talking things like. They've been grilled or they've been barbecued. Those sorts of cooking styles often increase the AGE content of the food. So we want to try and make sure my neighbor just beat. And again, just no respect anyway. And so making sure that you are trying to use other forms of cooking as well, right? So you're looking at steaming, you're looking at, you know, boiling, even roasting, because it's kind of, it's a dry heat, but it's a lower heat. All of these things can reduce. The content of AGs or the production of the AGs in your cooking. Of course as well, alcohol intake, smoking intake, you know, the safest amount of both of those is zero. You know, particularly for smoking, ideally, you know, zero is best. For alcohol, zero is best as well. You got to run that through what your filter is and what's important to you and try and reduce it as much as you can, where you can. Just as a side note. The whole red wine for asperatrol and antioxidant capacity thing is definitely massively overstated. So if you like red wine, go for it, but don't think that having a glass of red wine every night is going to be really anti -inflammatory. So if you're looking for sort of, I'll just quickly run through a few diet styles that kind of help, I guess, pull all of these things together. So rather than you worrying about, man, have I had my... phenolic compounds today, have I had too many AGEs today? Like that's absolutely not what I want you to be thinking when you're putting a diet together. Instead, you can be looking at different styles of diets and different dietary patterns that just kind of naturally encompass and promote these anti -inflammatory styles of foods and just naturally reduce the more inflammatory components of your diet. And so the Mediterranean diet, I know, shocker, that's definitely the most well -researched one. It is a really good one to try and...

Jono (13:30.446)
base your diet off, you don't have to follow it super specifically. But you know, we're looking at a diet high in fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds and with a moderate amount of you know, poultry and fish and dairy, you know, kind of like, you know, lower intakes of your refined grains, your refined cereals and things like that. And like kind of a low to zero intake of alcohol. And I know there's the red wine piece, but you know, still on the lower end, and then a lower end of red meat consumption as well that you know, that's going to give you tons of those antioxidants and anti inflammatory compounds, it's going to reduce your overall exposure to potentially inflammatory foods. Well, we'll talk about that second, because that's not the right way to think of it. But again, modeling your diet on something like the Mediterranean diet, probably not a bad idea. I'm just realizing now that I forgot to mention olive oil, it's part of the Mediterranean diet, so I'll probably get excommunicated. But that's also a very critical component. Olive oil is phenomenal. It gives you really good, you know, healthy fats and a really high antioxidant, kind of load as well. So that's why it's a staple in the Mediterranean diet. I'm sure culturally that's not why, but you know, that's what makes it such an effective part of the Mediterranean diet. another common diet, which is gaining a bit more traction in the literature now, which is called the Nordic diet. and it's pretty similar to the Mediterranean diet, to be honest.

All of the same things, the big difference being the types of fruits and vegetables that they'll have in that diet is going to be a bit different because obviously seasonally and you know, like the climate is different. So different things are going to be available and in season, but still lots of fruits and vegetables, lots of fish, you know, particularly the fatty fish up there and a lot more canola oil than olive oil, just because again, where they are, but all of these things again, are still really looking at being quite anti -inflammatory. overall. The last one is like the Japanese or traditional Japanese diet. Again, kind of that higher intake of fruits and vegetables, but also very high intake of you know, seafood, particularly your seafood is rich in those EPA and DHA. So that's another really good style of diet to follow. Just low animal fat in general. And a huge hallmark of that diet as well is typically smaller portion sizes. So when we came back to you know,

Jono (15:53.07)
one of the pro inflammatory things being an excess of calories in general, and an excess of that driving excess body fat. The traditional Japanese diet can often be a smaller, lower fat, lower calorie density, you know, diet in general, so often won't drive that change. So I guess what we want to just to wrap all that up, because I know that was a lot of information. I don't think it is valuable to think about foods in terms of them being my goodness, my son is melting down outside. Sorry. I don't think it's valuable to think in terms of foods being inflammatory, or foods being anti inflammatory and viewing a specific food like that, because what we see time and time again in the literature, and again, what we even see in that dietary inflammatory index, that tool, they don't just look at individual foods, they place that food in the context of a wider diet. So you need to think about what your diet as a whole is looking like.

I can't remember who said health is an average, but it's a phenomenal quote and it's very, very true. So a diet that is rich in antioxidants, you know, so fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fatty fish that occasionally has some refined carbohydrate in it, you know, some, a Mars bar, for example, or any of those sorts of foods is not going to be inflammatory. That Mars bar doesn't come across and wipe out all of the other pro or the other anti inflammatory components of that diet in the same way that, you know, a diet that's really high in excess calories, high in refined grains, refined sugars, low fiber, low antioxidants, low plant foods, all of these sorts of things high in AGEs, just throwing a bit of salmon in or a handful of blueberries occasionally is not going to make that diet, you know, less inflammatory or much less inflammatory. And so I don't think it's super useful to grade specific foods as pro -inflammatory or anti -inflammatory. So the second you hear someone on the internet saying like, yeah, sugar is, is, is inflammatory or chocolate or this processed food is inflammatory or promotes inflammation. Even I'd be very careful because looking at a food in isolation tells you nothing about how anti or pro -inflammatory your diet as a whole is going to be. So.

Jono (18:12.974)
I think it's much more valuable to focus on trying to include as many pro inflammatory foods as you can, and not stressing if occasionally you're including things that are anti -inflammatory, providing you're not going over your overall energy budget, you know, getting enough and getting regular amounts of those anti -inflammatory foods in is going to kind of just make the rest of that diet fall into place. So I hope that's helped. I hope that's maybe giving you a little bit more context around the discussion of food and inflammation. And, you know, you're not now scared to eat the, you know, some ultra processed foods occasionally. and you've got some good ideas on what sort of foods you want to be including more often. So, food and inflammation is relevant. Your nutrition can absolutely promote or reduce inflammation. It's not the only thing that's going to do that. and it's much more of a, an average of your behaviors over time. So don't stress about including some foods that might be anti inflammatory. Got that the wrong way around. Don't stress about including some foods that are pro inflammatory in a diet that is overall containing mostly anti inflammatory foods. So if that helped, I'd love a follow a subscribe, I think. I mean, I'd even love a review, but you know, I don't want to go too far. Mostly actually, if you found this really helpful, I'd love for you to throw it up in your stories or share it with someone that you know has been struggling with this idea of inflammation and particularly for someone who's, you know, drastically changed their diet or is restricting certain foods because they're afraid of them. I'd love to hopefully be in their ears and calming them down. So I'll catch you next time.