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    Vitamins That Fight Inflammation

    When you scrape your knee, swelling around the cut is healthy. It's the result of your immune system marshaling forces against invading germs. A swollen ankle after you sprain it is also evidence of healing.

    But inside your body, where you can't see it or feel it, ongoing inflammation can trigger heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

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    Research points to certain vitamins that have anti-inflammatory potential. Many of the studies were done with supplements, so amounts could be accurately measured and controlled. To take advantage of the possible benefits, you should start by eating foods with these vitamins. (Bonus: If you're overweight, a healthy diet can help you drop pounds, which can tame inflammation, too.)

    Keep in mind that more isn't always better. Large amounts of certain vitamins can be risky. Talk to you doctor before you take a supplement.

    Vitamin A

    It seems to play a role in keeping your immune system from overreacting and causing inflammation. Some studies on beta-carotene point to a slower progression of arthritis. Not getting enough vitamin A may put you at risk for Alzheimer's disease, but research isn't firm yet.

    What seems to be surer: A diet rich in beta-carotene-containing fruits and vegetables helps to head off heart disease. Supplements, however, don't seem to do the trick.

    What to eat:
    There are basically two forms of this vitamin -- retinoids and carotenoids -- and they have different jobs in your body.

    Retinol is in animal products, including milk, liver, and certain fortified foods. Beta-carotene is what gives orange vegetables and some fruits -- sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, papaya -- their hue. Spinach and other dark-green, leafy veggies also have a lot.

    What else you need to know:
    Too much vitamin A can cause liver damage and birth defects. Beta-carotene supplements have been linked to a higher chance of lung cancer and heart disease in smokers, including those who've given up cigarettes.

    The weight-loss medicine orlistat (Alli, Xenical) can make it harder for your body to get vitamin A, even when you eat enough.

    Some pills you take for skin problems, including acitretin (Soriatane) for psoriasis and bexarotene (Targretin) for side effects of T-cell lymphoma, are man-made forms of vitamin A. So, you could be getting more than you realize if you're on these medications.

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