Inflammation can be good or bad depending on the situation.
On one hand, it's your body's natural way of protecting itself when you're injured or sick.
It can help your body defend itself from illness and stimulate healing.
On the other hand, chronic, sustained inflammation is linked to an increased risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Interestingly, the foods you eat can significantly affect inflammation in your body.
Here are 6 foods that can cause inflammation.
1. Sugar and High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are the two main types of added sugar in the Western diet.
Sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose, while high fructose corn syrup is about 45% glucose and 55% fructose.
One of the reasons that added sugars are harmful is that they can increase inflammation, which can lead to disease.
In another study, the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids were impaired in mice fed a high sugar diet.
What's more, in a randomized clinical trial in which people drank regular soda, diet soda, milk, or water, only those in the regular soda group had increased levels of uric acid, which drives inflammation and insulin resistance.
Sugar can also be harmful because it supplies excess amounts of fructose.
While the small amounts of fructose in fruits and vegetables are fine, consuming large amounts from added sugars is a bad idea.
Eating a lot of fructose has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer, and chronic kidney disease.
Also, researchers have noted that fructose causes inflammation within the endothelial cells that line your blood vessels, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
High fructose intake has likewise been shown to increase several inflammatory markers in mice and humans.
Foods high in added sugar include candy, chocolate, soft drinks, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, sweet pastries, and certain cereals.
Consuming a diet high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup drives inflammation that can lead to disease. It may also counteract the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Artificial Trans Fats
Artificial trans fats are likely the unhealthiest fats you can eat.
They're created by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats, which are liquid, to give them the stability of a more solid fat.
On ingredient labels, trans fats are often listed as partially hydrogenated oils.
Most margarines contain trans fats, and they are often added to processed foods to extend shelf life.
Unlike the naturally occurring trans fats found in dairy and meat, artificial trans fats have been shown to cause inflammation and increase disease risk.
In addition to lowering HDL (good) cholesterol, trans fats may impair the function of the endothelial cells lining your arteries, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
Consuming artificial trans fats is linked to high levels of inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP).
In fact, in one study, CRP levels were 78% higher among women who reported the highest trans fat intake.
In a randomized controlled trial including older women with excess weight, hydrogenated soybean oil increased inflammation significantly more than palm and sunflower oils.
Foods high in trans fats include French fries and other fried fast food, some varieties of microwave popcorn, certain margarines and vegetable shortenings, packaged cakes and cookies, some pastries, and all processed foods that list partially hydrogenated vegetable oil on the label.
Consuming artificial trans fats may increase inflammation and your risk of several diseases, including heart disease.
3. Vegetable and Seed Oils
During the 20th century, the consumption of vegetable oils increased by 130% in the United States.
Some scientists believe that certain vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, promote inflammation due to their very high omega-6 fatty acid content.
Although some dietary omega-6 fats are necessary, the typical Western diet provides far more than people need.
In fact, health professionals recommend eating more omega-3-rich foods, such as fatty fish, to improve your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and reap the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3s.
In one study, rats fed a diet with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1 had much higher levels of inflammatory markers than those fed diets with ratios of 1:1 or 5:1.
However, evidence that a high intake of omega-6 fatty acids increases inflammation in humans is currently limited.
Controlled studies show that linoleic acid, the most common dietary omega-6 acid, does not affect inflammatory markers.
More research is needed before any conclusions can be made.
Vegetable and seed oils are used as cooking oils and are a major ingredient in many processed foods.
Some studies suggest that vegetable oil's high omega-6 fatty acid content may promote inflammation when consumed in high amounts. However, the evidence is inconsistent, and more research is needed.
4. Refined Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap.
However, the truth is that not all carbs are problematic.
Ancient humans consumed high fiber, unprocessed carbs for millennia in the form of grasses, roots, and fruits.
However, eating refined carbs may drive inflammation.
Refined carbs have had most of their fiber removed. Fiber promotes fullness, improves blood sugar control, and feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Researchers suggest that the refined carbs in the modern diet may encourage the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria that can increase your risk of obesity and inflammatory bowel disease.
Refined carbs have a higher glycemic index (GI) than unprocessed ones. High GI foods raise blood sugar more rapidly than low GI foods.
In one study, older adults who reported the highest intake of high GI foods were 2.9 times more likely to die of an inflammatory disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
In a controlled study, young, healthy men who ate 50 grams of refined carbs in the form of white bread experienced higher blood sugar levels and increases in levels of a particular inflammatory marker.
Refined carbohydrates are found in candy, bread, pasta, pastries, some cereals, cookies, cakes, sugary soft drinks, and all processed foods that contain added sugar or flour.
High fiber, unprocessed carbs are healthy, but refined carbs raise blood sugar levels and promote inflammation that may lead to disease.
5. Excessive Alcohol
Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to provide some health benefits.
However, higher amounts can lead to severe problems.
In one study, levels of the inflammatory marker CRP increased in people who consumed alcohol. The more alcohol they consumed, the more their CRP levels increased.
People who drink heavily may develop problems with bacterial toxins moving out of the colon and into the body. This condition — often called "leaky gut" — can drive widespread inflammation that leads to organ damage.
To avoid alcohol-related health problems, intake should be limited to two standard drinks per day for men and one for women.
Heavy alcohol consumption may increase inflammation and lead to a "leaky gut" that drives inflammation throughout your body.
6. Processed Meat
Consuming processed meat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stomach and colon cancer.
Common types of processed meat include sausage, bacon, ham, smoked meat, and beef jerky.
Processed meat contains more advanced glycation end products (AGEs) than most other meats.
AGEs are formed by cooking meats and some other foods at high temperatures. They are known to cause inflammation.
Of all the diseases linked to processed meat consumption, its association with colon cancer is the strongest.
Processed meat is high in inflammatory compounds like AGEs, and its strong association with colon cancer may partly be due to an inflammatory response.
The Bottom Line
Inflammation can occur in response to many triggers, some of which are hard to prevent, including pollution, injury, or sickness.
However, you have much more control over factors like your diet.
To stay as healthy as possible, keep inflammation down by minimizing your consumption of foods that trigger it and eating anti-inflammatory foods.
Reposted with permission from Healthline.
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By Melissa Gaskill
Two decades ago scientists and volunteers along the Virginia coast started tossing seagrass seeds into barren seaside lagoons. Disease and an intense hurricane had wiped out the plants in the 1930s, and no nearby meadows could serve as a naturally dispersing source of seeds to bring them back.
Restored seagrass beds in Virginia now provide habitat for hundreds of thousands of scallops. Bob Orth, Virginia Institute of Marine Science / CC BY 2.0<p>The paper is part of a growing trend of evidence suggesting seagrass meadows can be easier to restore than other coastal habitats.</p><p>Successful seagrass-restoration methods include <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304377099000078?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">transplanting shoots</a>, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1061-2971.2004.00314.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mechanized planting</a> and, more recently, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-17438-4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">biodegradable mats</a>. Removing threats, proximity to donor seagrass beds, planting techniques, project size and site selection all play roles in a restoration effort's success.</p><p>Human assistance isn't always necessary, though. In areas where some beds remain, seagrass can even recover on its own when stressors are reduced or removed. For example, seagrass began to recover when Tampa Bay improved its water quality by reducing nitrogen loads from runoff by roughly 90%.</p><p>But more and more, seagrass meadows struggle to hang on.</p><p>The marine flowering plants have declined globally since the 1930s and currently disappear at a rate equivalent to a football field every 30 minutes, according to the <a href="https://www.unep.org/resources/report/out-blue-value-seagrasses-environment-and-people" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Environment Programme</a>. And research published in 2018 found the rate of decline is <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2018GB005941" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">accelerating</a> in many regions.</p><p>The causes of decline vary and overlap, depending on the region. They include thermal stress from climate change; human activities such as dredging, anchoring and coastal infrastructure; and intentional removal in tourist areas. In addition, increased runoff from land carries sediment that clouds the water, blocking sunlight the plants need for photosynthesis. Runoff can also carry contaminants and nutrients from fertilizer that disrupt habitats and cause algal blooms.</p><p>All that damage comes with a cost.</p>
The Value of Seagrass<p>As with ecosystems like rainforests and <a href="https://therevelator.org/mangroves-climate-change/" target="_blank">mangroves</a>, loss of seagrass increases carbon dioxide emissions. And that spells trouble not just for certain habitats but for the whole planet.</p><p>Although seagrass covers at most 0.2% of the seabed, it <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/seagrass-secret-weapon-fight-against-global-heating" target="_blank">accounts for 10%</a> of the ocean's capacity to store carbon and soils, and these meadows store carbon dioxide an estimated 30 times faster than most terrestrial forests. Slow decomposition rates in seagrass sediments contribute to their <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/238506081_Assessing_the_capacity_of_seagrass_meadows_for_carbon_burial_Current_limitations_and_future_strategies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high carbon burial rates</a>. In Australia, according to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.15204" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> by scientists at Edith Cowan University, loss of seagrass meadows since the 1950s has increased carbon dioxide emissions by an amount equivalent to 5 million cars a year. The United Nations Environment Programme reports that a 29% decline in seagrass in Chesapeake Bay between 1991 and 2006 resulted in an estimated loss of up to 1.8 million tons of carbon.</p>
Eelgrass in the river delta at Prince William Sound, Alaska. Alaska ShoreZone Program NOAA / NMFS / AKFSC; Courtesy of Mandy Lindeberg / NOAA / NMFS / AKFSC<p>Seagrasses also protect costal habitats. A healthy meadow slows wave energy, reduces erosion and lowers the risk of flooding. In Morro Bay, California, a 90% decline in the seagrass species known as eelgrass caused extensive erosion, according to a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272771420303528?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper</a> from researchers at California Polytechnic State University.</p><p>"Right away, we noticed big patterns in sediment loss or erosion," said lead author Ryan Walter. "Many studies have shown this on individual eelgrass beds, but very few studies looked at it on a systemwide scale."</p><p>In the tropics, seagrass's natural protection can reduce the need for expensive and often-environmentally unfriendly <a href="https://www.nioz.nl/en/news/zeegras-spaart-stranden-en-geld" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">beach nourishments</a> regularly conducted in tourism areas.</p><p>Seagrass ecosystems improve water quality and clarity, filtering particles out of the water column and preventing resuspension of sediment. This role could be even more important in the future. By producing oxygen through photosynthesis, meadows could help offset decreased oxygen levels caused by warmer water temperatures (oxygen is less soluble in warm than in cold water).</p><p>The meadows also provide vital habitat for a wide variety of marine life, including fish, sea turtles, birds, marine mammals such as manatees, invertebrates and algae. They provide nursery habitat for <a href="https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/32636/seagrass.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly 20%</a> of the world's largest fisheries — an <a href="https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/science/seagrass-meadows-harbor-wildlife-for-centuries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">estimated 70%</a> of fish habitats in Florida alone.</p><p>Conversely, their disappearance can contribute to die-offs of marine life. The loss of more than 20 square miles of seagrass in Florida's Biscayne Bay may have helped set the stage for a widespread <a href="https://www.wlrn.org/2020-08-14/the-seagrass-died-that-may-have-triggered-a-widespread-fish-kill-in-biscayne-bay" target="_blank">fish kill</a> in summer 2020. Lack of grasses to produce oxygen left the basin more vulnerable when temperatures rose and oxygen levels dropped as a result, says Florida International University professor Piero Gardinali.</p>
Damaged Systems, a Changing Climate<p>Governments and conservationists around the world have already put a lot of effort into coastal restoration efforts. And that's helped some seagrass populations.</p><p>Where stressors remain, though, restoration grows more complicated. <a href="https://www.rug.nl/research/portal/en/publications/the-future-of-seagrass-ecosystem-services-in-a-changing-world(3a8c56db-7bed-4c9e-ac7f-c72453e2a102).html" target="_blank">Research</a> published this September found that only 37% of seagrass restorations have survived. Newly restored meadows remain vulnerable to the original stressors that depleted them, as well as to storms — and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-crisis">climate change</a>.</p>
Seagrass in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida. Alicia Wellman / Florida Fish and Wildlife / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>In Chesapeake Bay a cold-water species of seagrass is currently hitting its heat limit, especially in summer, according to Alexander Challen Hyman of University of Florida's School of Natural Resources and Environment. As waters continue to warm due to climate change, the species likely will disappear there.</p><p>Climate-driven sea-level rise complicates the problem as well. Seagrasses thrive at specific depths — too shallow and they dry out or are eaten, too deep and there isn't enough light for photosynthesis.</p>
But There’s Good News, Too<p>Luckily, left to its own devices, a seagrass meadow can flourish for hundreds of years, according to a <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.1861" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper</a> published last year by Hyman and other researchers from the University of Florida. The researchers arrived at their conclusion by looking at shells of living mollusks and fossil shells to estimate the ages of meadows in Florida's Big Bend region on the Gulf Coast.</p><p>That area has extensive, relatively pristine seagrass meadows. "Our motivation was to understand the past history of these systems, and shells store a lot of history," said co-author Michal Kowalewski.</p><p>A high degree of similarity between living and dead shells indicates a stable area, while a mismatch suggests an area shifted from seagrass to barren sand. The researchers found that long-term accumulations of shells resembled living ones, suggesting that the seagrass habitats have been stable over time.</p><p>That stability allows biodiversity to thrive, creating conditions where specialist species can survive and flourish, according to Hyman.</p><p>Discovering the long-term stability of seagrass meadows has implications for choosing restoration sites, Kowalewski notes.</p><p>"There must be reasons they thrive in one place, while a mile away they don't and fossil data says they probably never did," he said. "If we remove a seagrass patch, we cannot hope to plant it somewhere else. It's not just the seagrass that is special. The location at which it's found is special, too."</p><p>A better approach is conserving these habitats in the first place, but we're not doing enough of that right now. The UN reports that marine protected areas safeguard just 26% of recorded seagrass meadows, compared with 40% of coral reefs and 43% of mangroves.</p>
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