Western diet linked to inflammatory response: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Olive oil, Nutrition

Consuming a Western-style diet, rich in saturated fats, may increase markers of inflammation, but Mediterranean-style diets may be beneficial, according to new research.

Scientists from the University of Cordoba and the Autonomous University of Madrid report that volunteers eating a butter breakfast, consisting of 35 per cent saturated fats like a typical Western diet, experienced increases in tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a) and interleukin-6 (IL-6): two cytokines actively involved in the inflammatory response.

Chronic inflammation has been linked to range of conditions linked to heart disease, osteoporosis, cognitive decline and Alzheimer's, type-2 diabetes, and arthritis.

The findings are published online ahead of print in the journal Atherosclerosis​.

Butter versus olive oil or walnuts

The Spanish researchers, led by Jose Lopez-Miranda, recruited 20 healthy men to take part in their randomized crossover trial. The men were divided into one of three different groups and assigned to consume breakfasts with similar fat profiles as the Western diet, the Mediterranean diet, or a carbohydrate- and omega-3 rich diet.

The Western diet is composed of 15 percent protein, 47 per cent carbohydrates, and 38 percent fat, of which 22 percent was saturated fatty acid (SFA). The macronutrient content of the Med diet is the same, except the 38 percent fat was 24 percent monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA). The carbohydrate- and omega-3 rich diet was composed of 15 percent protein, 55 percent carbohydrates, and less than 30 percent fat, of which 8 percent was polyunsaturated fatty acid.

The diets were represented by three different breakfasts: a butter breakfast with 35 percent SFA, an olive oil breakfast with 36 percent MUFA, and a walnut breakfast with 16 per cent PUFA, (4 per cent alpha-linolenic acid).

Lopez-Miranda and his co-workers report that the butter breakfast resulted in a higher increase in TNF-alpha than the olive oil or walnut breakfasts. On the other hand, both the butter and olive oil breakfasts were associated with higher increases in IL-6 than the walnut breakfast.

“Few studies have investigated changes in inflammatory markers related to atherosclerosis during the postprandial state, which is the normal metabolic condition of the human beings throughout the day, and none of them considered the effect of the type of fat on such response,”​ wrote the researchers.

“The production of sufficient amounts of these [pro-inflammatory] cytokines is clearly beneficial in response to infection, but inappropriate quantities or overproduction may be harmful. In order to alleviate inflammation, therefore, it is important to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

“Nutrition strategies may be desirable to manipulate the secretion of these cytokines and, in this regard, our present study showed a higher expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines […] following a butter-enriched breakfast than after those rich in olive oil or walnuts.”

The Western dietary pattern has also been blamed by some for the obesity epidemic, particularly in children. Indeed, in August US pediatrician Robert Lustig, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco said that the "toxic environment" ​of Western diets causes hormonal imbalances that encourage overeating.

Source: Atherosclerosis​ Published online ahead of print 17 September 2008, doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2008.09.011“Olive oil and walnut breakfasts reduce the postprandial inflammatory response in mononuclear cells compared with a butter breakfast in healthy men”​ Authors: Yolanda Jimenez-Gomez, J. Lopez-Miranda, L.M. Blanco-Colio, C. Marin, P. Perez-Martinez, J. Ruano, J.A. Paniagua, F. Rodriguez, J. Egido, F. Perez-Jimenez

Related topics: R&D, Fats & oils

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