Inflammation is both friend and foe, as these researchers note: necessary for immunosurveillance and protection yet, in modern times, apt to predispose many individuals to complex chronic illness. This expert team further states that “An unresolved inflammatory response is likely to be involved from the early stages of disease development.” Low-grade inflammation is particularly central to common age-related neurodegenerative and cardiometabolic conditions, and dietary habits—which are often formed by early-life experiences—can profoundly influence whether inflammation persists or resolves.
Relative to many other food components, dietary fats have outsize influence over body weight, fat mass, cell membrane function, and inflammation signaling. Many saturated fats (though not those from tropical plants such as coconut or palm) are known for proinflammatory influence, and substituting monounsaturated for them in diets is an accepted means of alleviating this metabolic stress. Omega-3 fats and their metabolites have emerged as a realistic means of actively recalibrating the immune response towards resolution, with downstream benefits to vascular function, metabolic flexibility, and long-term immune regulation.
This team notes that greater dietary fiber intakes and lower glycemic loads better reflect our ancestral diets, and these strategies are a major means of limiting postprandial glucose excursions, insulin resistance, and chronic immune activation. Plant flavonoids also offer distinct advantages for immunomodulation through their salutary effects on cell signaling, mitochondrial function, genetic expression, and suppression of microglial activation, which is implicated in cognitive impairment.
This review is the collaborative result of an International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) workshop on meaningful approaches for evaluating inflammatory status and addressing the chronic low-grade inflammation seen in aging, obesity, and comorbid conditions.
For Better and for Worse, Diet Shapes Inflammatory Potential
This team concludes that “There is a substantial amount of evidence to suggest that many foods, nutrients, and non-nutrient food components modulate inflammation both acutely and chronically.”
They emphasize the value of bioactive flavonoids, dietary fiber, prebiotics, and omega-3 fats—especially from an early age—in modifying the modern propensity towards chronic inflammation and cardiometabolic health issues.