Inflammation is a bodily response to damage of cells and tissues. It is designed to protect us from bacteria, viruses and infections by eliminating pathogens, promoting cellular repair and restoring homeostatic conditions. However, a prolonged inflammatory state through chronic low-grade inflammation has negative effects, including irreparable damage to tissues and organs, and increased risk of disease status.
There are numerous causes of chronic low-grade chronic inflammation. Stressors such as trauma through adverse childhood experiences, psychosocial stress, and modifiable lifestyle sources such as limited physical exercise or smoking are all capable of bringing about an unwanted and negative inflammatory response. Diet quality is beginning to receive attention finally that can exacerbate or improve low-grade inflammation and subsequently influence mental health. Certainly, healthy dietary patterns of high quality, such as adherence to a Mediterranean Diet or eating foods such as vegetables and fruit or macro/micronutrients, such as omega-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) or vitamins C and E, respectively, have been shown to reduce systemic inflammation. In a variety of study designs, a higher quality diet, comprised of these nutrients, has been associated with a reduced risk of poor mental health in both children and adolescents. Unfortunately, the prevailing Western dietary pattern, which is high in refined grains, red meat, refined sugar and saturated fat, elicits a pro-inflammatory response and increasing levels of circulating inflammatory biomarkers.
A recent systematic review shows that healthful dietary patterns such as the Mediterranean diet, high in vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, fish and low-fat dairy, alongside moderate to low consumption of meat and healthy fats, have an inverse association with pro-inflammatory biomarkers, particularly CRP, IL-6 and TNF-α, in children and adolescents. In other words, it helps to reduce inflammation. Components of healthful diets that were examined separately, including food groups such as vegetables and fruit, or macronutrients such as fiber, or micronutrients such as Vitamins A, C and E also have inverse associations with pro-inflammatory biomarkers. In contrast, the Western dietary pattern, as well as its individual components including macronutrients such as saturated fatty acids, micronutrients such as sodium and ultra-processed foods, increases biomarkers of inflammation.
Bujtor M, Turner AI, Torres SJ, Esteban-Gonzalo L, Pariante CM, Borsini A. Associations of Dietary Intake on Biological Markers of Inflammation in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2021 Jan 25;13(2):356. doi: 10.3390/nu13020356. PMID: 33503979.