The obesity problem in America is quickly becoming an epidemic. Previously it was estimated that one-third of Americans were obese. New research published in JAMA Internal Medicine uncovered this number has grown to nearly two thirds of Americans – 75 percent of men and 65 percent of women whereas 20 years ago it was 63 percent of men and 55 percent of women. The numbers are surely growing.
Obesity has been linked to many health conditions like gout, high blood pressure and heart disease. But along with obesity comes another health problem which is intestinal inflammation.
Obesity and inflammation
Inflammation can occur when there is a threat in the body and it attempts to heal itself. Although it can be caused by an infection, inflammation isn’t necessarily always bad. But in regards to obesity inflammation is quite harmful.
When a person has an influx of white blood cells it signals a higher risk of illness. In one study from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center they compared white blood cell counts between obese men and not obese men. What they found was among the obese men they had elevated levels of white blood cells. This can put them at higher risk for obesity-related illnesses.
In an alternative study conducted in Seattle, Washington, women who lost weight also saw a reduction of white blood cells. This proves that losing weight can greatly improve one’s health by reducing inflammation.
As you can see inflammation and obesity go hand in hand. The heavier a person is the more inflammation they will have increasing their risk of illness. This is why it’s so imperative to maintain a healthy weight.
Link between chronic inflammation and small intestine
The role of the small intestine is to absorb nutrients which we obtain from the food we eat. If there is inflammation present in the small intestine it makes it more difficult for it to perform its role.
Researchers in Paris aimed to compare the tissues in obese patients with the tissue in the lean individuals to better understand intestinal inflammation. By taking tissue samples of the small intestine from 185 obese patients and 33 lean individuals they could begin to fully understand intestinal inflammation and obesity.
The research term found chronic inflammation among the obese patients. They uncovered this chronic inflammation led to insulin resistance which can hinder the small intestines’ ability to regulate absorption of essential nutrients thus worsening the condition of obesity. Additional findings showed in the obese patients the lining of the small intestine – or villi – were longer. With longer villi higher absorption can take place. This occurs when the cells don’t die off – or go through a process of apoptosis. When cells don’t die off it reinforces inflammation caused by the immune system and aggravates obesity.
With this new information, researchers now believe interventions can take place as a means to combat obesity. Essentially, by reducing intestinal inflammation obesity may be better treated.
Preventing obesity in America
Obesity numbers are growing and that means a larger focus on obesity prevention must take place. We know that eating well and exercising are essential to maintaining a health weight but more initiatives must take place to really curb the issue of obesity.
So far many organizations, such as the American Heart Association, are targeting children as a source of reducing obesity. By starting children at a young age down a path of healthy living, they can pass on these lessons when they grow up.
Another large initiative is changes to the standard food label. For one the FDA recently put a ban on trans fats as a means of reducing illness and obesity. Furthermore, major restaurant chains are changing their menus and making them more transparent. Not only are they answering consumer questions about their food but they are also removing many artificial ingredients as well. Some notable food chains are Chipotle and Panera. Many other restaurants, too, are posting calorie and fat content of their meals. Not only does this allow the consumer to make healthier choices but it’s making us aware of what we are really enjoying.
But one important aspect while keeping in mind combating obesity is portion control. We live in a world where bigger is better but when it comes to your waistline and health it isn’t. We get served these mounds of food which we feel obligated to eat and so we do just that. We don’t realize that by slowing down our eating and enjoying smaller portions we can still be quite full. So it’s important to keep your portions in control. An easy trick for portion control is use smaller plates. If we fill a small plate the portion now looks larger and we trick ourselves in believing we consumed a lot. This is something easy and manageable whether you eat at home or at a restaurant.
Although chronic inflammation in the intestines plays a role in obesity, to finally take control of the problem we all need to become aware of what we are putting in our mouths and why we’re doing it. Awareness is essential to living a healthier life. The more you know, the healthier you can be.
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