British Journal of Nutrition

  • British Journal of Nutrition / Volume 114 / Issue 07 / October 2015, pp 999-1012
  • Copyright © ILSI Europe 2015 This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
  • DOI: (About DOI), Published online: 31 July 2015

Review Article

Low-grade inflammation, diet composition and health: current research evidence and its translation

Anne M. Minihanea1 c1, Sophie Vinoya2, Wendy R. Russella3, Athanasia Bakaa4, Helen M. Rochea5, Kieran M. Tuohya6, Jessica L. Teelinga7, Ellen E. Blaaka8, Michael Fenecha9, David Vauzoura1, Harry J. McArdlea3, Bas H. A. Kremera10, Luc Sterkmana11, Katerina Vafeiadoua12, Massimo Massi Benedettia13, Christine M. Williamsa14 and Philip C. Caldera15a16

a1 Department of Nutrition, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK

a2 Mondelēz International – R&D, Nutrition Department, 91400 Saclay, France

a3 Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB21 9SB, UK

a4 Formerly ILSI Europe a.i.s.b.l., Avenue E. Mounier 83, Box 6, B-1200 Brussels, Belgium

a5 Nutrigenomics Research Group, UCD Institute of Food and Health and UCD Conway Institute, Belfield, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Republic of Ireland

a6 Department of Food Quality and Nutrition, Research and Innovation Centre, Fondazione Edmund Mach, San Michele all'Adige, 38010 Trento, Italy

a7 Centre for Biological Sciences, Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK

a8 Department of Human Biology, NUTRIM School for Nutrition, Toxicology and Metabolism, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

a9 Nutrigenomics and Neurodegenerative Disease Prevention, Preventative Health Flagship, CSIRO, Animal, Food and Health Sciences, Adelaide, Australia

a10 Microbiology and Systems Biology, TNO, Zeist, 3704 HE, The Netherlands

a11 Newtricious R&D B.V., Oirlo, 5808 AL, The Netherlands

a12 School of Life and Medical Sciences, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield AL10 9AB, UK

a13 Department of Internal Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy

a14 Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AP, UK

a15 Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK

a16 NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, Southampton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and University of Southampton, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK


The importance of chronic low-grade inflammation in the pathology of numerous age-related chronic conditions is now clear. An unresolved inflammatory response is likely to be involved from the early stages of disease development. The present position paper is the most recent in a series produced by the International Life Sciences Institute's European Branch (ILSI Europe). It is co-authored by the speakers from a 2013 workshop led by the Obesity and Diabetes Task Force entitled ‘Low-grade inflammation, a high-grade challenge: biomarkers and modulation by dietary strategies’. The latest research in the areas of acute and chronic inflammation and cardiometabolic, gut and cognitive health is presented along with the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying inflammation–health/disease associations. The evidence relating diet composition and early-life nutrition to inflammatory status is reviewed. Human epidemiological and intervention data are thus far heavily reliant on the measurement of inflammatory markers in the circulation, and in particular cytokines in the fasting state, which are recognised as an insensitive and highly variable index of tissue inflammation. Potential novel kinetic and integrated approaches to capture inflammatory status in humans are discussed. Such approaches are likely to provide a more discriminating means of quantifying inflammation–health/disease associations, and the ability of diet to positively modulate inflammation and provide the much needed evidence to develop research portfolios that will inform new product development and associated health claims.

(Received July 29 2014)

(Revised January 07 2015)

(Accepted May 18 2015)

(Online publication July 31 2015)

Key Words:

  • Low-grade inflammation;
  • Biomarkers;
  • Chronic diseases;
  • Health claims


c1 Corresponding author: ILSI Europe a.i.s.b.l., Avenue E. Mounier 83, Box 6, 1200 Brussels, Belgium, fax +32 2 762 00 44, email


  Abbreviations: CNS, central nervous system; ILSI, International Life Sciences Institute; LPS, lipopolysaccharide; MetS, metabolic syndrome; NAFLD, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; RCT, randomised controlled trial; T2DM, type 2 diabetes mellitus