Did you know there is a common factor that contributes to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s and premature aging? That factor is inflammation, and a growing number of studies suggest that inflammation can trigger these serious health issues, and more. Did you also know that treatment for inflammation can be found in your kitchen?
When people overeat and gain weight, especially around their stomach, inflammation increases throughout the body. This occurs because fat cells in the abdomen release various chemical compounds that affect metabolism in a way that boosts appetite, causes cells to age rapidly and leads to inflammation.
One such compound is a hormone called leptin. Fat cells make leptin and leptin travels to the brain where it helps control appetite and calories burned by the body. When people gain weight, leptin is supposed to shut off their appetite so that they don’t overeat. But because people who are obese have so much leptin in their bloodstream, their fat cells stop responding and they become “leptin resistant.” They keep on eating and gaining weight.
Eating large amounts of sugar or carbohydrates causes the body forms compounds called triglycerides to carry the sugar-like molecules through the bloodstream. High levels of triglycerides prevent leptin from acting in the brain to reduce appetite.
Losing weight and limiting sugars in the diet can improve the body’s response to leptin. But the answer is not to cut way back on calories. The body is a very smart machine that takes care of itself during feast or famine. During starvation, triglycerides go up and affect leptin, leading to hunger and overeating. A diet that is filled with good-tasting, high-calories foods can cause leptin resistance, hunger, overeating and weight gain.
Insulin is another hormone that responds to body weight. The fat cells of people who are older and have abdominal obesity send out signals that increase inflammation and interfere with insulin. “Fat cells gone wild” mess up appetite, make weight loss more difficult, speed up aging and increase the chance of developing heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.
Eating a better diet and cutting calories without starvation are the most important ways to turn off the inflammation that causes these health problems. When people eat fewer calories, they lose weight, and that improves the health of their cells, boosts their defenses against stresses on the body and fights inflammation.
A good diet has long been thought to be the key to avoiding heart disease and other illnesses and living a longer life. One example is the Mediterranean diet, with its plant-based foods, healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, fish and poultry. Cutting calories may boost brain health and is being studied as one of the ways to treat diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Another strategy to lessen inflammation is to stop eating after dinner. Leptin levels are high during sleep. Snacking can increase triglycerides and leptin resistance during a time when leptin levels already are high.
So the fountain of youth and the path to a healthier and longer life may be found in your kitchen!