New Review on the Pro-Inflammatory Modern Diet

Over the past several years, Dr. Loren Cordain, author of The Paleodiet, has kept us abreast on the nature of the “hunter-gatherer” diet and its importance in human health. His most recent paper was published in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. With several notable coauthors, Cordain describes the development of our “modern” Western diet and why it is pro-inflammatory.

The thesis of the Cordain, et al., article is straightforward: The changes in diet and other lifestyle conditions that began in certain regions of the world, some 10,000 years ago, occurred too recently on an evolutionary scale for the human genome to adapt. Accordingly, they explain that the expression of chronic disease is the rest of discordance between our “old” genes and our modern lifestyle.

Cordain, et al., focus on seven crucial nutritional characteristics of paleolithic diets that have been supplanted by the diet of modern man (see Table). The insults are cumulative in nature and impossible to circumvent by drugs, surgery, or nutritional supplements.

Diet-related chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, the arthritides, etc., represent the single largest cause of morbidity in the United States and most Western countries. Some 50-65 percent of the adult population in Western nations are afflicted with such chronic diseases, yet they are rare or nonexistent in hunter-gatherers and less Westernized people.1

Hunter-gatherers ate mostly vegetation and animals that ate vegetation. Unknown to them were fast foods, excessive grain consumption (whole or refined), dairy, salty foods, seed oils, and trans fats…all of which are pro-inflammatory, and the foods that most of your patients live on. When patients ask what foods are “good,” have them think about the foods that a hunter-gatherer would eat. Any suspicious food should be avoided, and replaced by a vegetable, fruit, or raw nuts. A suspicious food would be one that we cannot hunt or pick. This leads to a question about edible oils. You pick olives and coconuts, so they should be eaten and their oils consumed.

If patients feel the need for a treat, a mixture of dark chocolate, raisins, and raw nuts is both tasty (tastes like a candy bar) and anti-inflammatory. If patients wish to consume an adult beverage, stout beer and red wine are anti-inflammatory choices.

There is no adequate excuse for living a life of inflammation. Busy people do not have to be inflamed people. Business travelers blame travel, restaurants, and airports for their excess body fat and inflammation…a lame excuse indeed. I travel many weekends per year and every Sunday when I am tired and walking through an airport or two, the Cinnabon aroma beckons me to inflame…. I just force myself to walk faster and avoid it. There is no excuse to inflame oneself and pursue chronic disease; in these cases, the desire to inflame simply exceeds the desire to deflame.

The company we keep can play a significant role in whether or not we pursue inflammation. Simply stated, an alcoholic needs to stay away from bars and should not socialize with drinkers. The same holds true for inflame-aholics…stay away from those who beckon you to inflame. Eat anti-inflammatory foods and take supplements that augment the anti-inflammatory diet, including a multivitamin, magnesium, EPA/DHA, coenzyme Q10 and, if you get inadequate sunlight, supplement with vitamin D.


1. Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins BA, O’Keefe JH, Brand-Miller J. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr 2005; 81(2):341-54.

Dr. Seaman is the Clinical Chiropractic Consultant for Anabolic Laboratories, one of the first supplement manufacturers to service the chiropractic profession.  He is on the postgraduate faculties of several chiropractic colleges, providing nutrition seminars that focus on the needs of the chiropractic patient.  Dr. Seaman can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

Leave a Reply