Inflammatory foods are known as foods that can increase the risk of inflammation within the body. High intake of inflammatory foods, such as refined carbohydrates, processed meat, alcohol and foods high in saturated fats have been associated with several adverse mental health effects.
These are foods know to activate anti-inflammatory pathways in our body and reduce inflammation. Habitual consumption anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, olive oil, darkly colored berries, nuts and fish could maintain our brain health in good shape .
Inflammation is the response of the body’s immune system against external factors that can put your health in danger. When this system feels that is attacked by something that may harm your health, it activates some molecules that are called cytokines in order to neutralize or avoid any damage so you can be safe. When you are ongoing a process of inflammation you can have symptoms like redness, heat, swelling, and pain but you should be careful with this because inflammation doesn’t always can cause these symptoms. That means that you may suffer a process of inflammation and you may not even notice, which can be dangerous for your health overall if you maintain that inflammation for a long time.
Especially, it can affect the brain by active transport of cytokines through this organ. This plays an important role in the development of mental diseases such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder (BD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), where elevated levels of inflammation have been found(1).
How foods can influence inflammation and brain health?
There is evidence that states that foods can influence inflammation indirectly via the gut microbiota leading to a specific inflammatory profile due to hypersensitivity responses to different foods affecting the expression of inflammatory cytokines. Although the relationship between food, inflammation and brain health remains uncertain. Some studies have shown that healthy foods including fish, legumes, vegetables, fruits and olive oil contains biologically active compounds, such as omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Compounds that have already been scientifically demonstrated that have protective effects against inflammation. For example, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and phytochemicals are reported to induce antidepressant-like effects by regulating cytokine production (2,3).
The researchers in the Eat2beNICE project are pursuing studies that could contribute to the development of effective nutritional recommendations to ameliorate inflammatory-related mental health disorders.
Related blogposts of inflammation and foods:
(1)Mitchell RHB, Goldstein BI. Inflammation in children and adolescents with neuropsychiatric disorders: A systematic review. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry [Internet]. Elsevier Inc; 2014;53(3):274–96, DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2013.11.013
(2)Rapaport M, Nierenberg A, Schettler P. et al. Inflammation as a predictive biomarker for response to omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder: a proof-of-concept study. Mol Psychiatry. 2016; 21, 71–79, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2015.22
(3)Fengmei Zhu, Bin Du & Baojun XU. Anti-inflammatory effects of phytochemicals from fruits, vegetables, and food legumes: A review, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2018; 58(8), 1260-1270, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2016.1251390