miércoles, 4 de enero de 2017

Obesity and Chronic Inflammation

When the immune system is activated our bodies become a battle ground between our immune cells and the unwelcome invader. Our bodies initiate what is called the inflammatory response and we usually feel pretty rotten. Normally, once the offender is removed be it bacteria, virus or allergen, we start to feel better. However, there are occasions when whatever was stimulating the immune system remains within the body and a state of chronic inflammation occurs. Being in a state of chronic inflammation not only feels pretty awful it also has been linked to conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
There are numerous causes to chronic inflammation, usually an infection has persisted within the body somewhere and the immune system has not been able to clear it properly and so is continuing to fight it. Wounds that have not healed properly are a common cause, the open wound is allowing access to pathogens and so the immune system is in a continued state of activation.

However, there are non-infectious causes to chronic inflammation, tumours or autoimmune diseases for example, what is more worrying though, is that recently obesity has been linked to chronic inflammation.
At first glance it seems rather strange, how can body fat have anything to do with the immune system and therefore inflammation? Well as it turns out the fat cells that surround the organs (visceral adipocytes) also secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNFα and IL-6. Cytokines are protein molecules that act as messengers between cells, when you have an infection your immune cells will release pro-inflammatory cytokines to kick start the immune response. But it now appears that the immune cells aren’t the only cells that can initiate this signalling.
What initially causes these cells to begin an inflammatory response is not clear but it has been suggested that a stress response due to excessive lipid build up and an increased amount of free fatty acids that are both associated with obesity may be involved. This state of chronic inflammation does however provide an explanation to the link between obesity and type II diabetes, TNFα and IL-6 initiate a chain of events that ultimately inhibit the function of the insulin receptor, this leads to insulin resistance which eventually leads to type II diabetes.  
As mentioned before, chronic inflammation is also linked to other diseases and with obesity becoming THE health problem of the developed world we cannot afford to waste any more time in tackling it.

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 Owen J, Punt J, Stranford S, Jones P. Kuby Immunology. Seventh ed: MacMillan Higher Education; 2013.

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