Concerned about Inflammation?

It seems like every morning I wake up to another article telling me to avoid certain allegedly inflammation-causing foods. An important to always keep in mind is who is writing the article. If the person writing the article is not either a scientist who specializes in human health or a fully trained primary care medical practitioner, I take their words with a grain of salt. I just read an entire article from a source that I respect in many ways. However, in this article, he frequently referred to the Joe Rogan show as a citation. I like Joe Rogan, and I find many of his guests informative, but some cherry pick data to suit their a priori assumptions. Things that I hear on podcasts about health and human performance often inspire me to do a deep dive into the actual data. Unfortunately, quite often, I find that what I hear does not hold up to the actual evidence.

One of the things from you’ve been hearing from a lot of lately is that we got it all wrong about saturated fat. We have repeatedly heard that polyunsaturated fats, especially linoleic acid from vegetable oils, are actually the culprits. However, the abundance of evidence indicates that it is excess consumption of saturated fats that are the largest contributor to inflammation.

Inflammation is believed to play a central role in many of the chronic diseases that characterize modern society. In the past decade, our understanding of how dietary fats affect our immune system and subsequently our inflammatory status has grown considerably. There are compelling data showing that high-fat meals promote endotoxin [e.g., lipopolysaccharide (LPS)] translocation into the bloodstream, stimulating innate immune cells and leading to a transient postprandial inflammatory response. The nature of this effect is influenced by the amount and type of fat consumed. The role of various dietary constituents, including fats, on gut microflora and subsequent health outcomes in the host is another exciting and novel area of inquiry. The impact of specific fatty acids on inflammation may be central to how dietary fats affect health. Three key fatty acid–inflammation interactions are briefly described. First, the evidence suggests that saturated fatty acids induce inflammation in part by mimicking the actions of LPS. Second, the often-repeated claim that dietary linoleic acid promotes inflammation was not supported in a recent systematic review of the evidence. Third, an explanation is offered for why omega-3 (n–3) polyunsaturated fatty acids are so much less anti-inflammatory in humans than in mice. The article closes with a cautionary tale from the genomic literature that illustrates why extrapolating the results from inflammation studies in mice to humans is problematic.

As I always feel the need to do, I am going to reiterate that I will never be an advocate for a 100% vegan diet until such a day comes as I am 100% sure that I can get all of my nutrients from food and do not need to depend upon a pill or multiple pills. If humans cannot get optimal nutrition from food, there’s a strong argument to be made that such a diet is not the optimal one for humans. pure veganism is essentially unheard of in traditional societies from which we have reliable records. This is telling. However, just because limiting consumption of animal products appears to be beneficial does not mean eliminating them all together would be better. Common sense would seem to suggest otherwise.

Do you want to know what your ideal diet is? I recently developed a tool to help people identify the ideal diet by electronically tracking certain food categories in relation to certain subjective wellness parameters. Check out the SuperOrganism™ Tracker.