How What We Eat Affects How We Feel: A Closer Look at the Dietary Inflammatory Index

Do you ever wonder why some foods make you feel good while others leave you feeling sluggish or bloated? It turns out that the impact of food on our bodies is more significant than just satisfying our hunger.

How What We Eat Affects How We Feel: A Closer Look at the Dietary Inflammatory Index
Woman with shopping bags full of healthy things in a kitchen

By Gianluca Tognon Phd

Do you ever wonder why some foods make you feel good while others leave you feeling sluggish or bloated? It turns out that the impact of food on our bodies is more significant than just satisfying our hunger.

It can either increase or decrease inflammation in our bodies, affecting our overall health and well-being. To understand this better, researchers have developed something called the Dietary Inflammatory Index, or DII for short, which helps us see how different foods influence inflammation.

Most of you will know, that autoimmune diseases can be seriously triggered by certain foods, like dairy for Crohn's sufferers etc, and how that has a direct correlation to your mood and mental health.

What is Inflammation?

Before diving into the DII, let's talk about inflammation. Inflammation is our body's response to injury or infection — it’s how our immune system fights against things that could harm it. However, when inflammation is constant or out of control, it can lead to problems rather than solutions. Chronic inflammation has been linked to many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.

The Birth of the Dietary Inflammatory Index

The DII was created to give us an idea of how our diet influences inflammation in our bodies. Developed by researchers, including a key figure named Nitin Shivappa, the DII scores our diet based on how likely it is to increase or decrease inflammation.

To create the DII, scientists reviewed thousands of studies to see how different foods and nutrients affect markers of inflammation in the body. These markers include things like certain proteins in our blood that tell us whether inflammation is high.

How Does the DII Work?

The DII gives foods a score. Foods that tend to increase inflammation have a positive score, and those that decrease inflammation have a negative score. The idea is that the lower your overall DII score, based on what you eat, the less your diet contributes to inflammation.

For instance, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish, have negative scores because they help reduce inflammation. On the other hand, foods high in sugar and saturated fats might score positively because they can increase inflammation.

What Did the Research Find?

The research showed a lot about how diets from different parts of the world can impact inflammation. The researchers looked at diets from 11 different countries and used this big range of data to make sure the DII works for everyone, no matter where they live or what they eat.

They found that the DII could really show the differences in inflammatory potential of diets across these diverse populations. This is super useful for scientists and doctors who want to understand how diet plays into chronic diseases and inflammation.

What Can You Do With This Information?

Knowing about the DII can help you make choices about your diet that might lower your risk of chronic inflammation and therefore chronic diseases. It’s not about a single meal, but rather your diet over time. By choosing more foods with negative DII scores and fewer with positive ones, you can potentially reduce inflammation.

Real-Life Impact of the DII

Imagine if you could tweak your diet based on solid science to help avoid long-term health problems. That’s the promise of the DII. It’s not about banning foods but understanding which ones to enjoy in moderation and which ones to embrace.

The Human Side of Science

Creating the DII wasn’t just about crunching numbers and analyzing data; it was about making a tool that everyone could use. It’s a great example of how science isn’t just done in a lab — it’s about helping real people make better choices about their health.

Your Diet, Your Health

The DII teaches us that our diet does more than fill us up; it plays a crucial role in managing inflammation, which is linked to many chronic diseases. By understanding and utilising the DII, we can make informed choices that not only satisfy our taste buds but also promote our physical and mental health in the long run.

This index is not just a scientific score; it’s a guide that can help us navigate the complex world of nutrition with the aim of keeping us healthier. Whether you’re a health enthusiast or just someone trying to eat a bit better, thinking about inflammation and your diet is a step in the right direction.

Gianluca Tognon is an associate professor in public health at the University of Skövde (Sweden) and the founder of the consulting company “The Food Scientist AB.

Gianluca is an expert in epidemiology, public health, statistical methods, nutrition, and food science. As a trained biologist with a Ph.D. in nutrition, Gianluca spent more than 15 years researching public health and nutritional epidemiology to understand the problems connected to unhealthy diets.

Gianluca has consulted private companies, schools, organisations, and hundreds of private individuals who needed help with diet and health. He has presented at several conferences and events in Europe and the USA.

Gianluca is also a board member of Paincation.

More information about Gianluca is available on his website:

Online Nutrition Coaching | Public Speaking | Gianluca Tognon - Gianluca Tognon
Gianluca Tognon is an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and former associate professor at the University of Gothenburg.