For the first time, researchers in Sweden have found out what effect multiple, rather than just single, foods with anti-inflammatory effects have on healthy individuals. The results of a diet study show that bad cholesterol was reduced by 33 per cent, blood lipids by 14 per cent, blood pressure by 8 per cent and a risk marker for blood clots by 26 per cent. A marker of inflammation in the body was also greatly reduced, while memory and cognitive function were improved.
"The results have exceeded our expectations! I would like to claim that there has been no previous study with similar effects on healthy subjects," says Inger Björck, professor of food-related nutrition at Lund University and head of the University's Antidiabetic Food Centre.
Forty-four healthy, overweight people between the ages of 50 and 75 took part in the diet study. For four weeks they ate foods which are presumed to reduce low-grade inflammation in the body, a condition which in turn triggers metabolic syndrome and thus obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The test diet was high in antioxidants, low-GI foods (i.e. slow release carbohydrates), omega fatty acids, wholegrain products, probiotics and viscous dietary fibre. Examples of foods eaten were oily fish, barley, soy protein, blueberries, almonds, cinnamon, vinegar and a certain type of wholegrain bread. Some of the products in the food portfolio are not yet available in the shops, but were developed specifically for the study.
"Our purpose was to find out which preventive effect can be obtained on established risk markers by combining food concepts with an expected positive impact on inflammation."
Inger Björck believes that the study may have a broader impact on society. "We hope that these results on healthy subjects will inspire more intense preventive efforts in society."
It is not possible to tell precisely which food factors have greater or lesser impact on the research results.
"That's the point. We believe in the idea of combined effects. Drug or specific products with health claims affect only one or maybe a couple of risk factors. By a combination of food you can in a simple and striking way affect many risk parameters simultaneously," explains Inger Björck.
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