Does this finding mean that anti-inflammation diets work? From a scientific viewpoint, it’s too soon to make any such claims. “I don’t know whether anyone has actually tested that out, and that’s the worry,” says Dr. Dandona. “I’ve not seen anything in print or in the literature that would suggest the kind of meticulous testing that we have subjected our foods to.”
It seems likely, however, that the anti-inflammatory diet plans currently being promoted, which typically stress the consumption of fruits and vegetables, are on the right track. “Nature is not irrational,” says Dr. Dandona. “There are a lot of compounds like flavonoids that are found in fruit juices and vegetables. Probably we’ll come around to the answer that the ideal way to handle yourself is to have as much fruit and vegetables as possible.
“I’m hoping that in the next five or six years we find from our work a set of foods that are noninflammatory and possibly, to be more ambitious, anti-inflammatory.”
What should you do?
Until science reveals more about the influence of diet on inflammation, it seems prudent to follow the advice we’ve heard for years about a healthy lifestyle. Avoid high-fat and processed foods, and emphasize fruits and vegetables, particularly the colorful ones. Exercise, too — although it causes acute inflammation, it stresses the body in a way that is protective of blood vessels and may have a positive impact on the very things that inflammation hurts in the long term.
Unfortunately, again due to the lack of research, it’s hard to say what kind of exercise and how much. “Probably not the kind of exercise of going from the house down to the post box and back again, but whether it has to be aggressive exercise is another question,” says Dr. Trence. “Basically just keep moving the muscles, moving the blood vessels. There are certainly benefits in improving cardiovascular tone.”
What about some of the more magical claims concerning anti-inflammatory diets? Will the right oils and berries erase your wrinkles? “I really wish that were true,” says Dr. Trence. “It’s probably not a bad idea to rely on fruits and vegetables for their antioxidants; clearly there’s support for that and there has been for years. But what constitutes a healthy diet — two apples a day versus 10 apples a day — at this point, we don’t have the data to determine that.”