There is no doubt that your diet plays a role in your weight. Just how food impacts your body, though, is a popular topic among people trying to lose weight, and the anti-inflammation diet is among the most recent approaches being promoted by both celebrities and scientists. Additionally, other popular diets such as Whole30 and Paleo advertise their own anti-inflammatory properties. The anti-inflammation diet, in its many incarnations, has been purported to have many positive effects, including weight loss, protecting against heart disease, warding off Alzheimer’s disease and preventing cancer. However, it’s useful to understand what parts of the anti-inflammatory diet truly have an impact on your health — and what parts you don’t need to stress over.
First, a primer on inflammation. In a nutshell, there are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation (think a bruise or cut) is an absolutely essential immune process in your body that allows you to heal. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, occurs when your immune system is constantly on and potentially harming healthy tissue. The point of the anti-inflammation diet is to prevent chronic inflammation.
The most popular version of the anti-inflammation diet comes from Dr. Andrew Weil and includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, pasta, beans and legumes, healthy fats, fish, soy, dairy, lean poultry, tea and even plain dark chocolate. Other diets have some anti-inflammatory components, or may eliminate a few specific food items, which can be confusing. For example, Whole30 encourages produce, but excludes legumes. Paleo also encourages produce, but endorses red meat. In such situations it’s helpful to look at the science. To date, all the research has shown is that a wide array of fruits and vegetables reduce inflammatory markers in the body. Fatty fish, olive oil and nuts have also been shown to reduce inflammatory markers. On the flip side, refined carbohydrates, saturated fat, and fried foods are linked to increased inflammation in the body.
While no research has directly linked the anti-inflammatory diet to weight loss, or shown that the process of chronic inflammation leads to obesity (note though that obesity causes chronic inflammation), the foods in this diet just happen to overlap with many of the foods recommended for weight loss. That means you may get double the benefits. You can reduce chronic inflammation and maintain a healthy weight by sticking with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.