Inflammatory Claims About Inflammation

We all appreciate the elegance of simple solutions to complex problems. But we know too that simplicity can often masquerade as truth, hiding a more nuanced reality. Such is the case with inflammation, where pseudoscience, exaggerated claims, false promises, and dangerous oversimplification have dominated for too long. Here is a typical missive:

“Inflammation controls our lives. Have you or a loved one dealt with pain, obesity, ADD/ADHD, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, or cancer? If you answered yes to any of these disorders you are dealing with inflammation.”

Well, no, inflammation does not control our lives. Like many others, this author claims inflammation is responsible for a huge range of maladies, ranging from Alzheimer’s to lupus to stroke to fibromyalgia; I counted 30 on this site. As a biologist, and author of a book on diet and nutrition, I find this to be nothing but cringe-worthy. Yes, inflammation is terribly important, and as we will see, associated with disease. But the oversimplification and weak link to biology that we find on sites like these are misdirection from understanding what is actually happening in our bodies. Such misunderstanding leads to odd nutritional or medical recommendations that are useless at best or dangerous at worst.

Dr. Wajahat Mehal has written an excellent lay-person-friendly overview of the latest in inflammation research can be found in the most recent issue of Scientific American. I urge anybody making any claims about inflammation, or contemplating dietary or behavioral changes based on concern about it, to read this article.

Here is the crux of the problem. Yes, indeed, as Dr. Mehal notes, “inflammasomes are at the heart of a wide range of diseases and disorders.” But before —> Read More