Why junk food diets may raise heart disease risk

Hamburgers, fries, sugary sodas, and other less healthy foods may cause inflammation, a key player in the formation of artery-clogging plaque.

Published: March, 2021

Eating foods such as red meat and sugary treats may trigger inflammation, raising your risk of cardiovascular disease. But a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other anti-inflammatory foods reduces the risk, according to a large Harvard study.

"These new findings help explain why certain foods we consider unhealthy may be contributing to plaque buildup inside arteries," says Dr. Kathryn Rexrode, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a co-author of the study, published last year in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Inflammation is marked by the release of molecules called cytokines into the bloodstream. These attract immune cells to artery walls, contributing to the development of plaque, she explains.

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