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Chronic Inflammation and the Western Diet

Chronic inflammation is the 21st century’s leading health epidemic. It is the single common factor that contributes to the development and progression of chronic illnesses, many of which can be caused and modified by diet. As seen in this commentary by John Neustadt, ND, pathologies once viewed as unrelated are now grouped into the category of  “inflammatory disease” including: atherosclerosis, dementia, arthritis, vasculitis, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. In this report, Neustadt reviews the anti-inflammatory benefits of a “prudent diet,” including the Paleolithic diet and the Mediterranean diet. Though the Paleo diet is more restrictive in grain, legumes, dairy and potato consumption than the Med diet, both have significant overlap in macro and micro-nutrients.

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The Paleolithic diet mentioned in this review contains 19% to 36% protein and 22% to 46% carbohydrates; daily intakes of 520 mg cholesterol, 100 to 150 g fiber, 690 mg sodium, 1500 to 2000 mg calcium, and 400 mg vitamin C; and a polyunsaturated-to-saturated fatty acid ratio of 1.41. Neustadt refers the Med diet used in the most recent NHANES research, which stressed fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and grains. Overall the diet was 50% to 60% carbohydrates, 15% to 20% proteins, and less than 30% total fat, 10% or less saturated fat and less than 300 mg/day cholesterol. Study participants consumed at least 250 to 300 g/day fruits, 125 to 150 g/day vegetables, 25 to 50 g/day walnuts, and 400 g/day whole grains (defined in this study as legumes, rice, maize, and wheat); and liberal olive oil consumption.

Neustadt reviews the inflammatory mediators posed by the Western diet including increased intake of saturated fat, omega-6 fatty acids and trans fatty acids; decrease in omega-3 fatty acid intake; decrease in complex carbohydrates and fiber; an increase in highly processed cereal grains; a decrease in fruits and vegetables; and decreased intake of  in protein, antioxidants, and calcium.

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