BURLINGTON, Vt., Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Researchers found that a diet with low saturated fat and high monounsaturated fat -- such as the Mediterranean diet -- decreases inflammation linked to obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis better than diets high in saturated fats or overall low-fat.
Several recent studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can have positive effects on health and the risk of disease, including lowering the risk of breast cancer, as well as the chances of having a heart attack or stroke. Another study found that increasing the consumption of whole grain pastas can lower the levels of bad cholesterol, which also has been linked to certain obesity-related diseases.
Inflammation, which is indicated as the partial cause of a wide range of medical conditions, is a natural reaction of the immune system against infection. Elements introduced to the body from the environment, diet or other internal body processes can be mistaken as inflammatory stimuli and cause the reaction.
"It has been recognized that obesity -- a disorder characterized by abnormally high accumulation of fats in the body -- and an unhealthy diet can increase the risk of chronic metabolic diseases such as atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease, but not in everyone," said Dr. Lawrence Kien, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Vermont, in a press release.
Researchers started with the findings of a 2011 study that showed palmitic acid, the most prevalent saturated fat in the diet, increased the production of the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1beta. Kien said, based on that study, researchers sought to answer whether the discovery was relevant to people's dietary choices.
The researchers studied healthy, lean and obese adults who randomly were asked to follow two experimental diets for three weeks, with one week of a low-fat diet between the three-week periods.
One diet was similar to the participants' normal diet and high in palmitic acid, while the other was very low in palmitic acid and high in oleic acid, the most prevalent monounsaturated fat in the diet. When comparing the effects of each on the participants' bodies, researchers reported the diet high in palmitic acid stimulated the release of cytokines, causing inflammation.
"Ultimately, we would like to understand how these dietary fats behave -- both shortly after ingestion, as well as when stored in adipose tissue as a consequence of many months of ingestion -- and thus contribute to inflammation and the risk of metabolic disease," Kien said. "In other words, habitual diet and especially the type of fat ingested, may determine, in part, the risks associated with obesity."
The study is published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.