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Anti-inflammatory Diet: Road to Good Health?

Experts discuss the potential disease-fighting benefits of diets that try to reduce inflammation.

Where Is the Proof That Reducing Inflammation Works? continued...

Anecdotally, says Greenfield, he hears from patients that avoiding "inflammatory" foods can help their osteoarthritis pain. He recalls talking to patients with arthritis who have vacationed in India, for instance, eating dishes with plenty of curry, and telling him their joints didn't hurt as much while they were there.

Curry, he says, as well as ginger, is a natural anti-inflammatory.

Not surprisingly, the anti-inflammatory diet takes longer to work than, say, an anti-inflammatory medicine. "With an anti-inflammatory drug, you feel better in an hour or two," Greenfield says. For the anti-inflammatory diet, more patience is needed. "I would say clearly within just a few weeks most of the patients I have see a noticeable difference [in symptoms]."

Anti-Inflammatory Diets: More Opinions

It's not surprising that anti-inflammatory diets have gotten popular, says Elisa Zied, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and a dietitian in New York City.

While they may have some merit, she cautions: "Individual foods should not be the focus. You need to pay attention to your overall pattern." And reducing inflammation is not just about what you eat, she says.

"Maintaining a healthy body weight is the best thing you can do to reduce inflammation," Zied says.

Patience White, MD, the chief public health officer for the Arthritis Foundation, agrees, particularly when it comes to patients with arthritis. "The link between weight and osteoarthritis in the lower extremities is very close," she says. "The heavier you are, the more likely you are to get arthritis."

What about the anti-inflammatory diet for arthritis symptoms? "We don't have enough data one way or the other to prove following that diet helps your arthritis," White says.

Until more research is in, she suggests eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and being supervised by a doctor.

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Reviewed on September 11, 2008

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