Chronic Inflammation and Weight Gain

Inflammation is part of the body’s response to infection and tissue damage, and it is crucial to the healing process. It is also important for muscle growth with exercise but, conversely, chronic inflammation may be part of the reason for weight gain and muscle loss in aging.

Inflammation is the body’s response to microbial, autoimmune, metabolic or physical injury. The first responders to the site of injury or infection are white blood cells – including macrophages. They produce waves of chemicals, including cytokines, which can kill germs and sound the alarm for other populations of inflammatory cells.

The early stages of inflammation enlist the immune system to protect the body from an injury and to control infection, and later stages work to re-grow damaged tissue and start the wound-healing process.

Inflammation, Weight & Diabetes

However, fat cells can produce cytokines, too. And as fat tissue grows, it attracts inflammatory cells, particularly macrophages. The burden of obesity also crushes fat cells to death. And that makes the problem worse, as inflammatory cells move in to clean up the mess. (

Inflammation also antagonizes the action of insulin, the hormone that stimulates muscle and liver to absorb glucose from the blood. And obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes, in turn, increase the risk for heart disease.

Normally the forces of inflammation are held in delicate balance by your body. But, obesity “tilts” it in favor of inflammatory cytokines.

Diet and exercise can be helpful in reducing chronic inflammation since, if you refuse to feed it, it will not grow.

Here is a short-list of anti-inflammatory foods, along with inflammatory foods to avoid:

  • Anti-inflammatory foods to Enjoy: leafy greens and other colorful vegetables; lentils; berries; citrus fruits; low-fat dairy products; “hot” spices like garlic, ginger, chili peppers and curry; wild-caught fish; lean cuts of red meat such as pork, beef and buffalo; olive oil.

  • Eat in Moderation: whole grains, beans, tropical fruits, poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds, white potatoes, cheeses.

  • Inflammatory foods to Limit or Avoid: organ meats; veal; high-fat dairy; farmed fish; margarine and shortening; vegetable oils; refined flours and sugar; fatty and fried foods.

Stay tuned for future posts on specific steps you can take to reduce inflammation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *