Is a vegan diet anti-inflammatory?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is a vegan diet anti-inflammatory?” and will discuss what is inflammation and whether it is bad for you or not?

Is a vegan diet anti-inflammatory?

Yes, a vegan diet is anti-inflammatory. Several studies have linked veganism to a lower risk of inflammatory disease in humans. Vegan diets have been linked to decreased CRP levels in persons with arthritis, according to research published in Public Health Nutrition. C-reactive protein is the abbreviation for CRP. Chronic inflammation is indicated by a high level of CRP. When it comes to anti-oxidants, they’re like nature’s way of delivering small anti-inflammatories (1).

Internationally, the prevalence of following a vegetarian diet varies by country, but it is generally estimated to be less than 10% of the population. In the United States, a nationwide poll in 2020 found that approximately 6% of adults followed a vegetarian diet, with half of them being vegans. A similar U.S. poll found that approximately 2% of 8- to 17-year-old children followed a vegan diet, and 3% followed a non-vegan vegetarian diet. Globally, the market for alternatives to dairy products is expected to reach $US 25 billion by 2026. U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods (plant-based dairy alternatives and plant-based meats) increased 27% between 2019 and 2020, with a total plant-based market value estimated at $7 billion, suggesting a growing consumer interest in non-animal products (5).

What is inflammation?

Inflammation has different definitions in Medicine and is now recognized as a type of nonspecific immune response. Generally, inflammation is the basic process whereby tissues of the body respond to injury (2).

Whenever you’ve struck your knee on the coffee table and observed that your knee swells up, this is a sign of inflammation. The body’s normal reaction to an injury is inflammation.

Blood arteries surrounding the damaged region widen, allowing more blood to flow into the area, causing inflammation. Antioxidants, nutrients, and oxygen are provided to fight against microorganisms and heal damage.

To characterize an inflammation,  five macroscopic pathological phenomena must be present. These are tumor – swelling of the tissue, calor – elevated tissue temperature, rubor – blood color-like redness of vascularized tissue at the inflammation site, dolor – intensive sensation of a noxious stimulus, and functio laesa, i.e. impaired function of the organ affected (2).

As a result, it might be said that inflammation is beneficial. As a result, excessive inflammation in the body may lead to joint and stomach pain, as well as asthma. Any time you get allergy-like symptoms, painful joints, a headache, or stomach cramps after eating particular foods, it’s possible that inflammation is at blame.

The link between inflammation and cancer was first noted as an association between inflammatory diseases and increased risk for cancer of that organ. For example, inflammatory bowel disease increases the risk for colon cancer, human papilloma virus increases risk for cervical cancer, schistosoma infection increases risk for bladder cancer and the presence of chronic inflammation also contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (3).

Vegetarian diets typically have larger amounts of antioxidant micronutrients such as vitamins C and E, phytochemicals and fiber. These healthful components may ameliorate inflammatory processes and decrease circulating levels of inflammatory biomarkers, thereby reducing the risk of age-related diseases. Numerous studies have reported lower serum concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers among vegetarians compared with omnivores (1).

Why Choose a Vegan Diet?

Dietary change is a key mechanism for reducing obesity and for providing components to suppress inflammation, decrease oxidative damage and change gene expression. It has been shown that at least part of the mechanism for suppression of carcinogenesis of many dietary components is by suppressing the activation of inflammatory inducing compounds in the body (3).

You may ask whether a vegan diet is healthy because of all the foods they avoid. It has been established that a vegan diet offers many health and environmental advantages. The heart, bones, and cancer risk may all be reduced by a vegan diet according to studies (3).

Several health issues have been related to the consumption of meat from animals. Animal fats may cause diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and hypertension if consumed in excess. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, generally known as cholesterol, is a result of eating animal fats (1).

Cell culture and animal studies have shown suppression of carcinogenesis by multiple components found in the fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts that would be consumed as part of a plant based diet. It seems difficult for humans to consume any single component that has been shown to be beneficial at a level and continuously enough to suppress carcinogenesis. However, the effects of the individual dietary components can be summed and increased when people eat a varied, plant based diet (3).

If you’re vegan, you can get the essential fatty acids and anti-inflammatory characteristics you need by consuming oils and fats derived from plants, such as olive oil. The risk of inflammation may be reduced by consuming some plant-based products and certain fruits and vegetables.

Antioxidants found in vegetables have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammatory illness sufferers may try being vegetarian or vegan to see if they see a reduction in their symptoms as a result of cutting out meat and dairy.

Inflammation and a New Way of Life

It’s not only what you eat, but how you live your life and how you feel daily that have an impact on your overall health. Consuming a diet high in plants, fruits and vegetables have additional health and environmental benefits that go beyond the obvious advantages of avoiding animal products.

A few days a week of veganism and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables will help alleviate your chronic inflammatory symptoms even if you aren’t a full-time vegan. A few days a week of cutting out meat and dairy and boosting the number of veggies you consume will help decrease inflammation and lower the stress on your heart and circulatory system.

There are several agents in plant-based diets (e.g. phytosterols, spices, salicylic acid and dietary fiber) that may mediate the anti-inflammatory effect of plant-based diets. Phytosterols are strong anti-inflammatory agents that reduce inflammatory markers. Some spices typical in vegetarian diets have an anti-inflammatory effect through their inhibition of pro-inflammatory marker production (1).

It’s possible to make a big difference by making just a few little changes in your lifestyle.

Inflammation Reducing Foods

If you want to lower your risk of inflammation, there are several foods that you should eat. Inflammation-fighting foods include tomatoes, leafy greens like kale, and fruit like oranges and blueberries. Even though plant-based meals are excellent for reducing inflammation, some foods should be avoided.

Anti-inflammatory components found in plant foods are Isoflavones (soybean), Flavonols (green tea, chocolate, wine), Stilbenes (red wine), Hydroxybenzoic Acids (berries), Retinoids (dark green and deep yellow vegetables), Lycopenes (tomato, watermelon), Tocopherols, or vitamin E (nuts, vegetable oil, avocado), Sulfur containing compounds (cabbage, brokkoli), Isothiocyanates (wasabi, mustard), Organosulfur compounds (onion, garlic), Omega 3 fatty acids (flaxseed and canola oil) (3).

Fried food, white bread, pastries, soda, sugary beverages, red meat, lard, and margarine are some of the things to avoid.

Veganism is a well-balanced diet

A well-balanced vegan diet might decrease inflammation, but it can also help prevent cancer, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Even though becoming vegan for the rest of your life or cutting out foods that cause inflammation is challenging, it may make a great impact if you have chronic inflammation (1).

Reduce your intake of red meat, soda, and fried meals while increasing your intake of leafy greens, fruits, and tomatoes, for example, to see if your symptoms improve. Visit the contact page to get in touch with a health care specialist who can help you design a treatment plan for your chronic problems.

However, the risk of an inadequate supply of nutrients or of nutritional deficiency progressively increases as the selection of foods becomes more restrictive and the diet becomes less varied.In a vegan diet, the most critical nutrient is vitamin B12. Potentially critical nutrients in a vegan diet moreover include protein resp. indispensable amino acids, as well as long-chain n-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), other vitamins (riboflavin, vitamin D2) and minerals (calcium, iron, iodine, zinc and selenium) (4).

When making a major lifestyle change, it’s important to check with your primary care physician to determine whether a vegan diet is safe for you and if you need any laboratory tests.

To check an anti-inflammatory vegan diet, click here 

Other FAQs about Vegans that you may be interested in.

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Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is a vegan diet anti-inflammatory?” and discussed what is inflammation and whether it is bad for you or not?

References

  1. Haghighatdoost, Fahimeh, et al. Association of vegetarian diet with inflammatory biomarkers: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Pub health nutr, 2017, 20, 2713-2721.
  2. Stankov, Srđan V. Definition of Inflammation, Causes of Inflammation and Possible Anti-inflammatory Strategies. Open Inflamm J, 2012, 5, 1-9.  
  3. Hardman, W. Elaine. Diet components can suppress inflammation and reduce cancer risk. Nutr res pract, 2014, 8, 233-240.
  4. Richter, Margrit, et al. Vegan diet. Position of the German nutrition society (DGE). Ernahr umsch, 2016, 63, 92-102.
  5. Craig WJ, Mangels AR, Fresán U, Marsh K, Miles FL, Saunders AV, Haddad EH, Heskey CE, Johnston P, Larson-Meyer E, Orlich M. The Safe and Effective Use of Plant-Based Diets with Guidelines for Health Professionals. Nutrients, 2021, 13, 4144.