Chronic Inflammation as a Pre-Cursor to Other Diseases

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Chronic inflammation has been shown to be a consistent pre-cursor to many metabolic diseases, such as obesity, fatty liver disease, atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, type II diabetes, degenerative disorders such as dementia, airway disease and some cancers.1 The relationship between diet, and more specifically refined carbohydrates, and chronic inflammation has been of high interest in the media in recent years. This interest could have a lot to do with the alarming rate that these metabolic diseases are growing. For example, The World Health Organization estimates that one billion adults worldwide are over weight, and 300 million of those are clinically obese, defined as having a body mass index equal to or greater than 30 kg m-3. (1) What is scarier still is the equally marked increase in obesity, and diagnosis of type II diabetes (formerly known as adult onset diabetes) among children.1 There has also been a heightened awareness for prevention measures of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of common pathologies including obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and hypertension, usually resulting into diabetes type II or cardiovascular disease.2 Speculation of these rising numbers have to do with the food industry and its replacement of sucrose with fructose in an increasing amount of processed foods, particularly high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), because of the inexpensive cost of development. High fructose corn syrup can be found in everything from baked goods, condiments, and prepared desserts, but is mostly consumed in soft drinks and juice beverages. Intake of HFCS has increased from less than 0.5 grams daily per capita in 1970 to 53.9 grams daily per capita in 2003.3 Soft drink consumption has also increased 500% in the last 50 years, making it the leading source of added sugar in children’s diets.3 Obtaining an understanding of the metabolic differences in complex carbohydrates and refined carbohydrates is necessary when discussing the relationship of how over consumption of refined carbohydrates can cause chronic inflammation in the body, leaving it more vulnerable for a downward spiral effect towards other metabolic diseases. Goals of this paper are to define chronic inflammation and metabolic syndrome, discuss the metabolic pathway of refined carbohydrates and how that differs from complex carbohydrates, and discuss the relationship of how over consumption of refined carbohydrates can lead to chronic inflammation and metabolic syndrome.

The body is an extraordinary system of complex and intricate checks and balances that work together to remain in constant homeostasis. One of those responses is inflammation. Short-term inflammation is beneficial and creates a small amount of stress on the body to be able to defend itself in case it is injured. This usually results in swelling, redness, pain and fever of the injured area(s), which was a crucial component of tissue repair.1 Low grade or chronic inflammation is not the same as described above. The long-term consequences of prolonged inflammation are often not beneficial.1 Although many of the same mediators are involved in obesity and diabetes, few short-term features of inflammation have actually been observed.1 The term meta-inflammation, a condition mainly triggered by nutrients and metabolic surplus, and engages a similar set of molecules and signaling pathways to those involved in short term inflammation, has been introduced to replace the terminology of “low grade” or “chronic” inflammation in order to easily differentiate the two terms.1 For the purpose of this paper I will simply use the word inflammation in the understanding that I am referring to “low grade”, “chronic,” or “meta-inflammation”.

As discussed above, metabolic syndrome is a cluster of common pathologies including obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and hypertension, usually resulting into diabetes type II or cardiovascular disease.2 Also mentioned...
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