Low-Grade and Ultra-Processed Inflammation

Tempo de Leitura: 3 minutos

Inflammation is an immune response essential for the defense of the body, which serves to repair damaged tissues and eliminate toxic agents. However, when that answer becomes chronic, even to a low degree, can lead to metabolic conditions that disturb homeostasis, favoring the development of various non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, here you will understand the importance of food choice to prevent an inflammatory state.

Diet as a Risk Factor for Low-Grade Inflammation

Overall, dietary patterns with high consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, moderate consumption of vegetables and fish, and low consumption of red meat were associated with a higher anti-inflammatory potential, so the Mediterranean diet is recommended.

The authors concluded that the Mediterranean diet appeared as the dietary pattern with the most significant reductions in inflammatory biomarkers., including IL-6 and C-Reactive Protein. The protective effects of these dietary patterns against inflammation are related to the eating pattern as a whole, not just its individual components.

In contrast, dietary factors that promote inflammation are oxidized lipids, saturated fatty acids, and trans fatty acids, which are present at high levels in Western dietary patterns.. This dietary pattern, characterized by a high caloric intake and a high consumption of sweets, refined cereals, red and processed meats, snacks and sugary drinks, has been associated with a higher pro-inflammatory potential, with higher levels of C-Reactive Protein and IL-6.

Action of Ultraprocessed Foods in the Body

In this way, the ultra-processed are usually high in simple sugars, in the form of sucrose or high-fructose syrup, so they tend to be foods that raise blood glucose sharply and quickly, i.e. with a high glycemic index/glycemic load. This postprandial increase in levels of glucose, in turn, causes an increase in insulin levels, which promotes a pro-inflammatory state.

They also have high salt content, contributing to a high sodium intake. Several studies have associated a higher salt intake with higher levels of inflammation in adults and the elderly.

As for the fat content of ultra-processed foods, their inflammatory potential stems not only from the greater quantity consumed, but also from a quality inferior. In fact, trans fatty acids resulting from the industrial process are associated with a greater presence of low-grade inflammation. And the higher intake of omega-6 fatty acids, resulting in a higher omega-6/omega-3 ratio and potential promotion of low-grade inflammation.

Non-nutritional aspects involved

One of the non-nutritional factors present in ultra-processed foods are the additives, which are added to minimize or intensify the sensory qualities of food. Among the most studied are the sweeteners, especially non-caloric ones, due to their wide use in soft drinks because they provide a sweet taste without the energy value of sugars.

Recently, there has also been a growing interest in the harmful effect of emulsifiers. used to improve the shelf life and texture of food products. Studies suggest that sweeteners and emulsifiers may contribute to inflammatory cascade through modulation of the gut microbiota.

Non-nutritive components such as bisphenol and phthalates may also be present in ultra-processed foods due to the migration of chemicals that are part of the packaging. of food. In fact, several studies have reported higher levels of both substances in the urine of people with high consumption of ultra-processed foods. Due to their structure, bisphenol and phthalates can disrupt various aspects of hormonal action and are therefore called endocrine disruptors.

Relationship with the Intestinal Microbiota

Dysbiosis is associated with a high degree of inflammation, caused by a lower presence of short-chain fatty acid-producing bacteria and increased permeability of the gut. Both the quality of the diet and the presence of the additives described above may influence intestinal dysbiosis.

Fruits and vegetables are correlated with an anti-inflammatory effect thanks to the presence of numerous phytocompounds and dietary fibers. Fiber is considered one of the factors that reduce inflammation related to diet and in maintaining homeostasis of the gut microbiota.

Clinical practice

Low-grade inflammation plays a key role in the formation of non-communicable diseases, which are becoming increasingly prevalent around the world. In recent years, food has stood out as one of the main factors of risk for these diseases, along with increased consumption of ultra-processed foods, which by various mechanisms, can contribute to promote a pro-inflammatory state.

Bibliographic references

Study Suggestion:
Ultra-processed foods and mortality in Brazil – Science Play

Watch the video on Science Play with Hugo Comparotto:
Phytotherapy as a therapeutic resource in inflammation and weight loss

Article: Tristan Asensi M, Napoletano A, Sofi F, Dinu M. Low-grade inflammation and consumption of ultra-processed foods: a review. Nutrient. 2023; 15(6):1546. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15061546

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