Do Anti-Inflammatory Diets Work?

Different studies have shown that there is a strong association between chronic inflammation and many diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and cancer. Recent studies have also shown a link between diet as a trigger for inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory diets have become more popular in recent years. An anti-inflammatory diet is rich in foods containing high levels of antioxidants, polyphenols, and other immune booster compounds. 

In healthy conditions, inflammation is a normal, self-limiting, and well-controlled response to infections, and is thus not damaging, but helpful to protect us. 

Anti-inflammatory Foods

Some foods that have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties include: 

  • Herbs and spices: Tumeric, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, pepper, and rosemary. 
  • Fruits: Pineapple, papaya, mango, and berries. 
  • Vegetables: carrots, pumpkin, green leafy vegetables, and zucchini.
  • Peas and beans: pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed peas. 
  • Oily fish: fish oil and omega-3 sources, including sardines, salmon, and mackerel. 
  • Dairy: yogurt.
  • Whole grains: corn, cornmeal, whole grain pasta, and rice. 

According to studies, several foods can increase inflammation levels in the body, including highly refined carbohydrates and added sugars, red meat, trans and saturated fats, and salt. 

One diet that has been associated with a reduction in the risk of heart disease and blood pressure, and has anti-inflammatory effects is the Mediterranean diet

The goal of these types of diets is to eliminate pro-inflammatory foods and replace them with others that have anti-inflammatory compounds, such as vitamin C. 

As many as 70-80% of immune cells are present in the gut, and optimizing gut health is integral in promoting our overall health, and anti-inflammatory diets can help with that. 

Health Benefits 

Decrease Risk of Disease

Studies have demonstrated that anti-inflammatory diets can reduce inflammation markers in the body and by doing so, also decrease the risk of chronic conditions. 

A study from 2016, by Rosa Casas and colleagues, found that the Mediterranean diet reduced C-reactive protein, which is an acute marker of inflammation, by 20%, and the overall heart disease risk by 30%. 

Another study by Philippou and colleagues found that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. 

This diet is characterized by the abundant consumption of olive oil, high consumption of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, pulses, cereals, nuts, and seeds); frequent and moderate intake of wine (mainly with meals); moderate consumption of fish, seafood, yogurt, cheese, poultry and eggs; and low consumption of red meat, processed meat products, and seeds.

Reduced risk of severe symptoms

Studies have found that anti-inflammatory diets in individuals with conditions such as psoriasis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and depression can have an improvement in their symptoms and quality of life. 


Anti-inflammatory diets can effectively reduce inflammation and improve disease symptoms. They might not cure a condition but they can have a positive effect on reducing symptoms and improving the quality of life of an individual, while also reducing the risk of developing several conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer. 


Amber Charles Alexis, MSPH, RDN. (2022, Mar 18). Do anti-inflammatory diets really work? Medical News Today. Retrieved from:

Haß U, Herpich C, Norman K. Anti-Inflammatory Diets and Fatigue. Nutrients. 2019 Sep 30;11(10):2315. doi: 10.3390/nu11102315. PMID: 31574939; PMCID: PMC6835556. 

Ajaikumar B. Kunnumakkara, et al. Chronic diseases, inflammation, and spices: how are they linked? J Transl Med. 2018; 16: 14. Published online 2018 Jan 25. doi: 10.1186/s12967-018-1381-2. 

Rosa Casas, et al. The Immune Protective Effect of the Mediterranean Diet against Chronic Low-grade Inflammatory Diseases. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2016 Dec; 14(4): 245–254. Published online 2016 Dec. doi: 10.2174/1871530314666140922153350.

Selma P. Wiertsema, et al. The Interplay between the Gut Microbiome and the Immune System in the Context of Infectious Diseases throughout Life and the Role of Nutrition in Optimizing Treatment Strategies. Nutrients. 2021 Mar; 13(3): 886. Published online 2021 Mar 9. doi: 10.3390/nu13030886.

David Furman, et al. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nat Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2020 Apr 10.Published in final edited form as:Nat Med. 2019 Dec; 25(12): 1822–1832. Published online 2019 Dec 5. doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0675-0.

Philippou E, Nikiphorou E. Are we really what we eat? Nutrition and its role in the onset of rheumatoid arthritis. Autoimmun Rev. 2018 Nov;17(11):1074-1077. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2018.05.009. Epub 2018 Sep 10. PMID: 30213695. 

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