Eating high quantities of red and processed meat, refined grains and sugary drinks could increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, researchers have said.

Meanwhile, a separate study has found consuming walnuts might reduce the risk of the same health conditions.

The first study has found evidence that gorging on junk food encourages inflammation in the body which can lead to heart-related health conditions.

Data collection involved 210,000 people dating back to 1986 and included up to 32 years of follow up appointments. The participants were asked to a complete a survey every four years to record their diet.

Lead researcher Dr Jun Li, and research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “Using an empirically-developed, food-based dietary index to evaluate levels of inflammation associated with dietary intake, we found that dietary patterns with higher inflammatory potential were associated with an increased rate of cardiovascular disease.

“Our study is among the first to link a food-based dietary inflammatory index with long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Foods such as green leafy vegetables and whole grains have been associated with anti-inflammatory properties, which the researchers say we should be aware of.

Dr Ramon Estruch, senior consultant in the department of internal medicine at Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, said: “A better knowledge of health protection provided by different foods and dietary patterns, mainly their anti-inflammatory properties, should provide the basis for designing even healthier dietary patterns to protect against heart disease.

“When choosing foods in our diet, we should indeed beware of their proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory potential!”

In the second study walnuts proved to have significant health benefits. More than 600 people took part in the trial . Half of them were asked to follow a walnut-heavy diet and the remaining participants went nut free.

After two years the researchers found that those who had eaten the nuts showed significantly reduced levels of inflammation in the body.

Lead researcher Dr Montserrant Cofán, from the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute in Barcelona, said: “The anti-inflammatory effect of long-term consumption of walnuts demonstrated in this study provides novel mechanistic insight for the benefit of walnut consumption on heart disease risk beyond that of cholesterol lowering.”

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