June 20, 2005

Anti-Inflammatory Agents: How Foods Can Relieve Inflammation

Before the last couple of decades and the discovery of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins and leukotrienes, it was impossible to comprehend how foods such as fish oil could possibly influence inflammatory diseases like arthritis and asthma. It is now known that prostaglandins and leukotrienes are manufactured by enzymatic breakdown of a fatty acid called arachidonic acid. What you eat determines how much of the arachidonic acid is present and what type of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, cell messengers that regulate the immune and inflammation process, are created.

If you eat a lot of meat and omega-6 type vegetable oils, you are likely to create more arachidonic acid that sets off chain reactions, resulting in specific leukotrienes that trigger inflammation. On the other hand, certain foods such as fish oil, can manipulate the prostaglandin system to block the cascade of events that ends in troops of leukotrienes being dispatched to destroy tissue and produce inflammation. A food like ginger can intervene in at least three stages to block the complex biochemical inflammatory process.

On the other hand, capsaicin the stuff that gives chilli peppers their fire works through a different mechanism according to researchers who have tested a new class of anti-inflammatory drugs derived from capsaicin.

Foods That Have Anti-Inflammatory Activity: Apple, blackcurrant, fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids), garlic, ginger, onion, pineapple, sage.

Foods Chemicals with Anti-Inflammatory Activity: Capsaicin (hot chilli peppers), omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines and salmon), quercetin (onion).


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