Anti-inflammatory diets can favorably influence the biochemical process of inflammation present in pain syndromes. Omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are a family of poly-unsaturated fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are converted into the pro-inflammatory agents, such as arachidonic acid (AA) and prostaglandins (PG), which cause the sensation of pain and expedites healing and immune response in traumatized and infected tissues.
In addition, omega-3 fatty acids compete with omega-6 fatty acids for the same enzymes (5-desaturase and elongase). Therefore, increased inflammation precursors can be achieved by increased ingestion of omega-6 fatty acids and/or increasing the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids in the diet (Kelley 2001; Rennie et al. 2003).
The ingestion of olive oil, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid, does not contribute to the omega-6 pool, therefore it can also reduce the omega-6/omega-3 ratio. Diets with less meat contribute less to the AA pool, which can diminish pro-inflammatory compounds. Fruits and vegetables contain phyto-chemicals which can act as anti-oxidants, reducing oxidative stress seen in pain conditions such as osteoarthritis.
Three major omega-3 fatty acids are available in foods: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, and herring. ALA is found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, purslane, perilla seed oil, walnuts, and walnut oil.
The Mediterranean diet is high in fruits, vegetables, fish, and mono-unsaturated fats (olive oil). The diet has a low intake of dairy products and red meat, and with the inclusion of omega-3 fish is an example of an anti-inflammatory diet (Teets et al., 2010).