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Portland Study Focuses on Anti Inflammatory Diet and Diabetes

04/18/06  Portland, Ore.

Do common foods contribute to health problems?

You may have heard about links between inflammation and heart disease. Now scientists are exploring the possible connection between diet, inflammation and diabetes. Research suggests that the typical western diet, high in processed foods, sugar and saturated fat may trigger the body to release inflammatory chemicals. Constant, low levels of inflammation may be the precursor to many chronic diseases so prevalent in society today.

Researchers at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) and Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) are collaborating on a groundbreaking study comparing the effects of the naturopathic anti-inflammatory diet with the standard diabetic diet. The study will look at the effects of these diets on diabetes, inflammation, the immune system and mood in type 2 diabetics and pre-diabetics who are not on medication.

The anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes specific foods thought to decrease inflammation, such as whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, many vegetables and fruits, fish, lean turkey and chicken. It excludes foods that are thought to trigger inflammation such as wheat, corn, soy, dairy, red meat, caffeine, alcohol, peanuts, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and citrus fruits. The standard diabetic diet contains many of the same healthful foods as the anti-inflammatory diet, but it does not exclude foods thought to cause inflammation. The diets will be similar in fat, protein, and carbohydrate levels.

The Helfgott Research Institute at NCNM is heading up the study, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health. While naturopathic physicians often use diets to treat diseases, most of these diets have not been compared to other treatments in a formal research setting. Researchers want to know whether the anti-inflammatory diet results in less inflammation and a better response by the immune system than the standard diabetic diet.

The six-week study will follow 36 participants, monitoring changes in the levels of inflammatory blood markers, cardiovascular risk factors, and glucose metabolism. Participants will receive all of their food for free from the OHSU General Clinical Research Center, which has developed special recipes based on the two diets. Participants will be directed to only eat the food and beverages provided. During the first two weeks of the study, the calorie level will be controlled to maintain the participant's weight. During the next four weeks, participants can eat the amount of food they choose.

Diabetes is taking an increasing toll in the U.S. - 20.8 million people, or 7% of the population, have diabetes. The risk of death for individuals with diabetes is approximately twice that of those without the disease. Findings from this study will be used to improve future research and design studies on larger groups of subjects.

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