Yes, nuts are anti-inflammatory. Nuts contain many bioactive components that may favourably act on inflammation.  This may partly explain their effects on decreasing the risk of diseases associated with chronic inflammation such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and more recently their positive effects on brain health.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect itself against harm. Acute inflammation occurs, for example, when you cut your finger.  Your immune system dispatches white blood cells to surround and protect the area, creating visible redness and swelling. After a short time, the wound heals and inflammation is ‘switched off’. 

Chronic inflammation does not ‘switch off’, instead producing a steady, low level of inflammation within the body. Low levels of inflammation can get triggered in the body even when there’s no disease to fight or injury to heal, and sometimes the system can’t shut itself off resulting in arteries and organs breaking down under the pressure. It’s for this reason that chronic inflammation has a role in the development of diseases including Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and even depression.

Nuts contain a diverse range of macro- and micro-nutrients and other bioactive components, which have been shown to favourably influence inflammation [1-4].   

These include: 

  • Vitamins and minerals – e.g. vitamin E, riboflavin, selenium, manganese, copper and magnesium 
  • Polyphenols – proanthocyanidins, flavonoids, resveratrol 
  • Ellagic acid  
  • Arginine – an amino acid that increases nitric oxide which helps relax blood vessel walls 
  • Carotenoids – pigment colours 
  • Dietary fibre
  • Mono-unsaturated fats
  • Plant omega 3 – alpha linolenic acid (ALA).

These compounds can reduce markers of inflammation naturally found in the body e.g. 

  • C-reactive protein 
  • Interleukin 6 
  • Fibrinogen 
  • Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 (VCAM-1) and Intracellular Adhesion Molecule-1 (ICAM-1) 
  • Tumour necrosis factor

References

  1. Neale, E.P., et al., The effect of nut consumption on markers of inflammation and endothelial function: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ Open, 2017. 7(11): p. e016863.
  2. Xiao, Y., et al., Effects of nut consumption on selected inflammatory markers: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition, 2018. 54: p. 129-143.
  3. Salas-Salvado, J., et al., The effect of nuts on inflammation. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr, 2008. 17 Suppl 1: p. 333-6.
  4. Casas-Agustench, P., M. Bullo, and J. Salas-Salvado, Nuts, inflammation and insulin resistance. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr, 2010. 19(1): p. 124-30.
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