Suzanne Judd, Ph.D.

Hot sauce may burn the tongue, but the inner fire of inflammation brings real damage.

“We know inflammation is detrimental for heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions,” said Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. Research has demonstrated that diet and lifestyle choices contribute to inflammation. But which foods and choices do we mean, exactly?

That is the sort of question that Judd, a nutritional epidemiologist, loves to tackle. In a new study, she and colleagues at Emory University provide answers in intriguing detail.

Using data from the massive, nationwide REGARDS study led by UAB, they compiled detailed records of food choices and lifestyle characteristics from a subset of 639 participants. Then they compared these records with the same participants’ inflammatory status — as measured by blood levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein and interleukins 6, 8 and 10 — and calculated the strengths of association between the inflammatory markers and individual food choices and lifestyle activities. That allowed the investigators to determine specific weights for each of 19 foods and four lifestyle elements. Foods or activities with negative numbers lowered inflammation; those with positive numbers increased inflammation.

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