Chronic inflammation is emerging as a very important factor related to disease risk such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even some cancers. In fact elevations in C-reactive protein, which is a common biomarker of inflammation, have been shown to predict the development of diabetes and hypertension more accurately than body mass index1.
So, what contributes to inflammation?
There are many different contributors, each with a different degree of influence. For instance, fighting an infection, a bodily injury, stress, exercise and diet call all have pro- or anti-inflammatory effects on the body. For this post, let us focus on the foundations of a healthy lifestyle: exercise and diet.
Exercise has been shown to decrease cardiometabolic risk, improve insulin sensitivity, preserve bone mass, improve strength, help with depression and anxiety, enhance feelings of “energy,” improve cognitive function and improve overall quality of life2. The benefits derived from regular exercise are also important in terms of controlling low-grade inflammation and preventing disease. In a recent review,researchers concluded that a single bout of exercise can reduce inflammation but regular exercise is where you are going to get the most benefit. Whereas the anti-inflammatory effects from a single exercise bout are short-lived, a regular pattern of daily exercise can reduce chronic low-grade systemic inflammation and promote long-term health3. In addition, authors concluded that performing both cardiovascular and resistance exercise yields the greatest anti-inflammatory response3. Furthermore, to optimize the anti-inflammatory effect from training, research shows that cardiovascular exercise should be performed at a moderate-to-vigorous intensity3.
Lack of regular exercise combined with poor eating habits can lead to excess weight gain. Excess weight gain can lead to the development of systemic low-grade inflammation3 and, in turn, an elevated risk of disease. For example, available data indicate that diets saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids and high glycemic load carbohydrates are associated with increased levels of inflammation1. Consuming items with large amounts of rapidly absorbable carbohydrates (e.g., various forms of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup), such as those seen in sugar-sweetened beverages, may increase inflammation, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease risk and risk of type 2 diabetes4. In an article published by the American Heart Association, authors concluded that in the U.S., sugar-sweetened beverages are the greatest contributor to added-sugar intake which may lead to elevation in weight gain, inflammation and disease risk5. Avoidance of these types of beverages, in addition to emphasizing a diet with poly – and mono-unstaturated fatty acids, fiber, magnesium, with lots legumes, fruits, vegetables and grains may help decrease levels of inflammation1.6.
So, what is the take home message? To get the greatest health benefit, combine regular exercise with healthy food choices. Make a healthy lifestyle your priority! Try to get a minimum of at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity most days of the week. Work up to 45-60 minutes on most days and be sure to incorporate cardiovascular and resistance exercise into your routine. Combine a physical active regimen with good quality nutrients. Exercise and diet are the foundations to living a healthy lifestyle and improving quality of life. It all begins with making good choices!
“There is a choice you have to make,
In everything you do.
So keep in mind that in the end,
The choice you make, makes you.” – John Wooden
Eddie Davila, MS, RCEP, HFS
Eddie Davila is an ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Certified Health Fitness Specialist at The Ridge Athletic Clubs. He is also a Clinical Exercise Physiologist in the Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital Heart Center. For more information or to contact Eddie, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1) Galland, L. Diet and inflammation. Nutr in Clin Practice. 2010; 25(6):634-640.
2) Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, Franklin BA, Lamonte MJ, Lee I, Nieman DC, Swain DP. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintain cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sport Exerc. 2011; 43(7):1334-1359.
3) Nimmo, MA, Leggate M, Viana JL, King JA. The effect of physical activity on mediators of inflammation. Diabetes, Obesity and Metab. 2013; 15(3):51-60.
4) Schulze MB, Liu S, Rim EB, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and dietary fiber intake and the incidence of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle-aged women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004; 80:348-356.
5) Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Desprès, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease risk. Circ. 2010;121:1356-1364.
6) Yao LH, Jiang YM, Shi J, Barberàn FA, Datta N, Singanusong R, Chen SS. Flavonoids in food and their health benefits. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2004;59(3):113-122.