Inflammation plays an important role in cardiovascular disease (CVD) development. Diet modulates inflammation; however, it remains unknown whether dietary patterns with higher inflammatory potential are associated with long-term CVD risk.
This study sought to examine whether proinflammatory diets are associated with increased CVD risk.
We prospectively followed 74,578 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) (1984–2016), 91,656 women from the NHSII (1991–2015), and 43,911 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986–2016) who were free of CVD and cancer at baseline. Diet was assessed by food frequency questionnaires every 4 years. The inflammatory potential of diet was evaluated using a food-based empirical dietary inflammatory pattern (EDIP) score that was pre-defined based on levels of 3 systemic inflammatory biomarkers.
During 5,291,518 person-years of follow-up, we documented 15,837 incident CVD cases, including 9,794 coronary heart disease (CHD) cases and 6,174 strokes. In pooled analyses of the 3 cohorts, after adjustment for use of anti-inflammatory medications and CVD risk factors including body mass index, a higher dietary inflammatory potential, as indicated by higher EDIP scores, was associated with an increased risk of CVD (hazard ratio [HR] comparing the highest to lowest quintiles: 1.38; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.31 to 1.46; p for trend <0.001), CHD (HR: 1.46; 95% CI: 1.36 to 1.56; p for trend <0.001), and stroke (HR: 1.28; 95% CI: 1.17- to 1.39; p for trend <0.001). These associations were consistent across cohorts and between sexes, and they remained significant after further adjustment for other dietary quality indices. In a subset of study participants (n = 33,719), a higher EDIP was associated with a higher circulating profile of proinflammatory biomarkers, lower levels of adiponectin, and an unfavorable blood lipid profile (p < 0.001).
Dietary patterns with a higher proinflammatory potential were associated with higher CVD risk. Reducing the inflammatory potential of the diet may potentially provide an effective strategy for CVD prevention.