Our topic today is how saturated fat promotes inflammation. We know that chronic inflammation plays a key role in promoting and worsening arthritic conditions and autoimmune diseases, as well as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. In my own clinical practice, it became very apparent that a person’s diet and lifestyle played an important role in the inflammatory process.
Our topic today is how saturated fat promotes inflammation. We know that chronic inflammation plays a key role in promoting and worsening arthritic conditions and autoimmune diseases, as well as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. In my own clinical practice, it became very apparent that a person’s diet and lifestyle played an important role in the inflammatory process. People with better diet and lifestyle behaviours tend to recover better from joint injuries and are generally better able to manage various inflammatory conditions.
For many years we have known that the polyunsaturated fat, arachidonic acid, found in high concentrations in meat products, is converted in th body to inflammation-promoting hormones, known as prostaglandins – more specifically prostaglandin series-2. When you take aspirin or ibuprofen or voltaren or celebrix, these drugs reduce inflammation by blocking the conversion of arachidonic acid into prostaglandin series-2.
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In recent years we have seen that saturated fat also increases the inflammatory process. A spectacular review paper on this subject was published in 2015 in the journal Advances in Nutrition, which is published by the American Society for Nutrition. The title of the article is The Science of Fatty Acids and Inflammation.The review paper brings to light some very eye-opening discoveries. The first finding of importance is that gut bacteria (gram negative gut bacteria), produce various toxins (endotoxins) that are carried into the bloodstream by the fats we have in our diet. Thus, a high fat diet carries more bacterial toxins into the bloodstream than a lower fat diet. Once in the bloodstream our immune cells respond to these bacterial toxins by secreting all kinds of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which increase the level of inflammation throughout the body. The second finding is that the saturated fats found particularly in meat and dairy products (including butter) stimulate a receptor on the surface of a key immune cell called the macrophage. The receptor is known as the Toll-like receptor-4 (TLR4). Once stimulated by these saturated fats, macrophage cells secrete a host of powerful inflammation-promoting chemicals (cytokines) that are known to contribute to and aggravate joint and muscle inflammatory diseases, as well as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other degenerative health conditions. By comparison, olive oil (rich in monounsaturated fat) and omega-3 fats from fish, fish oil and flaxseed oil, were shown to inhibit the release of inflammatory chemicals from macrophage and other immune cells.
In recent videos I have explained how eating too much saturated fat increases the bad cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol), and promotes pathways linked to cancer development, especially of the breast and prostate.The 2015 review article, in the journal Advances in Nutrition, now explains how too much fat from meat and dairy products also directly increases inflammation within the body, which is strongly tied to the development and worsening of arthritic conditions, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, other neurological diseases, cancer and cardiovascular disease. I think it’s one more reason to be very vigilant with your intake of saturated fat from these food sources.
Fritsche KL. The science of fatty acids and inflammation. Advances in Nutrition Journal, 2015, vol 6:2935-3015.
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great.
Dr. James Meschino