By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Today I turned on the TV to find the news inundated with a new pharmaceutical drug discovery which appears to cut the risk of a second heart attack by 15% and the risk of cancer by half as well.
Called "canakinumab" --- try saying that three times in a row fast --- the drug is being hailed on both sides of the Atlantic in terms usually reserved for rock stars. "Break through", "landmark" "game changing" are just a sample of the general gushing forth of praise for the new wonder drug.
Canakinum slashes heart attack and cancer rates by lowering the levels of internal inflammation in your body. For many years, scientists have known that many major chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer begin with inflammation. Solve the inflammation, solve the disease is the working theory.
So drug companies set out to search fro a wonder drug that can lower levels of inflammation low enough to impact the rates of heart attack. Canakinumab appears to be that drug.
But all of this just reminded me to review the foods that I know also reduce internal inflammation.
Inflammation Triggers Disease
For many years, scientists and doctors believed that the single most important cause of heart disease was cholesterol.
Then in 2005 Dr. Anders Berg and Dr. Philipp Scherer of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York conducted a study of inflammation's role in causing heart disease among obese patients. They found that the reason that obese patients have heart attacks more than thin ones is that the fat itself releases compounds that cause inflammation. One of the main inflammatory compounds is proinflammatory cytokines plasma interleukin 6.
As the scientists stated: "Obese hypertrophic adipocytes and stromal cells within adipose tissue directly augment systemic inflammation". Scientists used to believe that the inflammation was simply a side effect of clogged arteries. But the 2005 study turned this theory on its head. Inflammation is not a side effect of arteriosclerosis, inflammation actually causes arteriosclerosis.
Foods That Naturally Lower Inflammation
Vitamin C Lowers Inflammation By 24%
Internal inflammation is measured by a C-reactive protein test. A 2004 study by scientists at the University of California at Berkley discovered that Vitamin C dramatically reduces levels of inflammation in your body. Participants who took 500 milligrams of Vitamin C for two months saw their levels of C reactive protein plummet on average by 24%.
Dr. Gladys Block, who led the study, saw its potential for saving lives. She stated If our finding of vitamin C's ability to lower CRP is confirmed through other trials, vitamin C could become an important public health intervention."
That was in 2004. Now, 13 years later, we are hearing that a "wonder drug" can lower inflammation levels by 15%.
If this new wonder drug lowers inflammation, great. But why oh why don't we see the same hooplah over Vitamin C or any number of other nutrients that also lower inflammation by as much or more?
Fiber Lowers Internal Inflammation
People who eat 22.36 grams per day of a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber had C reactive protein levels that were 63% lower than those who ate only grams of fiber per day. This was the finding of a 2007 led by scientists from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
These findings were consistent with two prior studies on the connection between fiber and levels of inflammation.
We in America know that we should eat fiber but we don't get around to it. On average, we eat about 15 grams of fiber a day which is about half the recommended amount, according to a
Add an apple to your breakfast. Add a side salad to lunch or eat a large salad as your meal. Add green leafy vegetables to your dinner.
Consider adding oatmeal to your diet. Oatmeal contains a compound called "avenanthramides" which lower C reactive protein levels in woman over 50. Exercise typically increases levels of C reactive protein. But a 2014 study from the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin Madison found that women over 50 who eat oatmeal saw their C reactive protein levels rise much more slowly.
Nuts Lower Internal Inflammation for Many Reasons
A landmark study found that people who eat tree nuts tend to live about 20% longer than people who rarely eat nuts. One of the reasons that nuts help you live longer is that they tend to cut the risk for cardiovascular disease.
A study from Spain (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, C/Sant Llorenç )has observed a crucial connection.
Nuts are rich in arginine and magnesium. Arginine is a compound needed to make nitric oxide in your blood, which relaxes your arteries. Magnesium lowers the amount of inflammation in your body probably by "decreasing the production of proinflammatory cytokines such as CRP, IL-6, TNF-α or IL-18, and increase the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines such as adiponectin", the study found.
Add a handful of nuts a day to your diet. Mix it up but feature walnuts, almonds, a one or two Brazil nuts.
Now, I'm not saying that the new drug canakinumab is not worth the positive press it's getting. It is. But I just saying that there are foods tat continue somehow to be "underpromoted" as alternatives ways to lower internal inflammation and chronic diseases.