While each plan has its own twist, all are based on the general concept that constant or out-of-control inflammation in the body leads to ill health, and that eating to avoid constant inflammation promotes better health and can ward off disease, says Russell Greenfield, MD, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a private-practice physician who studied under Weil.
"It's very clear that inflammation plays a role much more than we thought with respect to certain maladies," Greenfield tells WebMD.
"We always thought anything with an "itis" at the end involved inflammation," he says, such as arthritis or appendicitis. But even the illnesses without an "itis" at the end, such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, even Alzheimer's disease, may be triggered in part by inflammation, he says.
Sears calls inflammation a silent epidemic that triggers chronic diseases over the years. "You could feel fine but have high levels of inflammation," he warns.
The average American diet, Greenfield says, includes far too many foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids, found in processed and fast foods, and far too few rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in cold-water fish. When that balance is out of whack, inflammation can set in, Sears explains.
Phytochemicals -- natural chemicals found in the plant foods suggested on the diets -- are also believed to help reduce inflammation.
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