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Inflammation can be good or bad, depending on the situation.

On one hand, it’s your body’s natural way of protecting itself when you are injured or sick.

It can help your body defend itself from foreign invaders and can stimulate healing.

On the other hand, chronic, sustained inflammation in the body can be harmful.

It is linked to an increased risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity and many others (1, 2, 3).

Interestingly, the foods you eat can have a major effect on inflammation in your body.

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Here are 6 foods that can cause inflammation.

1. Sugar and High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup are the two main types of added sugar in the diet.

Sugar is 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose, while high-fructose corn syrup is about 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose.

One of the reasons that added sugars are harmful is increased inflammation that can lead to disease (4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

In one study, when mice were fed high-sucrose diets, they developed breast cancer that spread to their lungs, in part due to the inflammatory response to sugar (6).

In another, the anti-inflammatory action of omega-3 fatty acids was impaired in mice that were fed a high-sugar diet (7).

And in a randomized clinical trial where people were assigned to drink regular soda, diet soda, milk or water, only those in the regular soda group had increased levels of uric acid, which drives inflammation and insulin resistance (8).

Sugars can also cause harm because they supply excess amounts of fructose.

While the small amounts of fructose in fruits and vegetables are fine, getting large amounts from added sugars is a bad idea.

Eating a lot of fructose has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer and chronic kidney disease (9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15).

Researchers have also found that fructose causes inflammation within the endothelial cells that line your blood vessels (16).

High fructose intake has also been shown to increase several inflammatory markers in mice and humans (10, 1718131920).

Bottom Line: Consuming a diet high in sugar and high-fructose corn syrup drives inflammation that can lead to disease. It may also counteract the anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Artificial Trans Fats

Just about everyone agrees that artificial trans fats are the unhealthiest fats you can eat.

They’re created by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats, which are liquid, in order to give them the stability of a more solid fat.

Trans fats are often listed as “partially hydrogenated” oils on the ingredients lists on food labels.

Most margarines contain trans fats and they are often added to processed foods in order to extend shelf life.

Unlike the naturally occurring trans fats found in dairy and meat, artificial trans fats have been shown to cause inflammation and increase disease risk (21, 22, 23, 24,25, 26, 27, 28, 29).

In addition to lowering beneficial HDL cholesterol, trans fats have been shown to impair the function of the endothelial cells lining the arteries (26).

Ingestion of artificial trans fats has been linked with high levels of inflammatory markers such as interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and C-reactive protein (CRP).

In fact, CRP levels were 78 percent higher in women who reported the highest trans fat intake in the Nurses Health Study (26).

In a randomized controlled trial of overweight older women, hydrogenated soybean oil increased inflammation significantly more than palm and sunflower oil (27).

Studies on healthy men and men with elevated cholesterol have shown similar increases in inflammatory markers in response to trans fats (28, 29).

Bottom Line: Consuming artificial trans fats may increase inflammation and raise the risk of several diseases, including heart disease.

3. Vegetable and Seed Oils

Despite what we’ve heard for years, consuming vegetable oils isn’t healthy.

Unlike virgin olive oil and coconut oil, vegetable and seed oils are often extracted from foods using solvents like hexane, a component of gasoline.

The vegetable oils made this way include corn, safflower, sunflower, canola (also known as rapeseed), peanut, sesame and soybean oils.

During the 20th century, the consumption of vegetable oils increased by 130 percent in the U.S.

Due to the structure of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in these oils, they are very prone to damage by oxidation.

In addition to being highly processed, these oils promote inflammation as a result of their very high omega-6 fatty acid content (30, 31, 32, 33).

Although some dietary omega-6 fats are necessary, the typical Western diet provides may more than people need.

In fact, we should be eating more omega-3-rich foods, such as fatty fish, in order to improve our omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and reap the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3s.

In one study, rats who consumed an omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 20:1 responded with much higher levels of inflammatory markers than the who consumed a ratio of 1:1 or 5:1 (33).

Bottom Line: Because of their high omega-6 fatty acid content, vegetable and seed oils may promote inflammation when consumed in high amounts.

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