USC study stresses danger of inflammatory diet

11/17/2013 12:00 AM

11/16/2013 7:14 PM

The evidence for the health benefits of anti-inflammatory foods keeps building, with a recent University of South Carolina study showing a strong link between inflammatory foods and gastrointestinal tract cancers.

The study, funded by the USC Center for Colon Cancer Research and presented as a poster at a recent American Institute of Cancer Research meeting, took a fresh look at existing dietary data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study from 1987-2003.

Using an inflammatory diet index developed by James Hebert, director of the South Carolina Statewide Cancer Prevention and Control Program and a distinguished professor at USC, researchers determined that participants with an anti-inflammatory diet were 400 percent less likely to die from gastrointestinal cancers.

Susan Steck, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor at USC, cautioned that the sample size for GI deaths in the study is small. The 400 percent number shouldn’t be the takeaway as much as the growing evidence that diet can play a major role in diseases such as esophageal, stomach and colorectal cancer. And an inflammatory diet can contribute to higher rates of those cancers.

Foods high in saturated or trans fats, sugar and gluten are especially inflammatory on the digestive tract. Alcohol, white bread and milk (but not low-fat milk) also are inflammatory.

Fruits and vegetables and many non-processed foods are anti-inflammatory, and so are many spices such as turmeric, ginger, oregano and garlic.

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