Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Monday, December 22, 2008

Is a Belly Bad?

A protruding midsection can mean many different things. It can be obesity, starvation/kwashiorkor or sarcopenia. It can mean there is a layer of fat outside, sagging organs poorly supported by weak abdominal muscles or fat surrounding the organs and stretching the muscles outward.

Alternatively having the same “lean” profile at 60 as at 16 could be a sign of a decline of muscle and an increase in fat surrounding organs. You can always have a porthole put in to see what is going on, or you can check the calendar and your C-reactive protein level.

If you are over fifty and your doctor has told you that your CRP, a measure of inflammation, is starting to creep up, then you are starting to suffer from age-related loss of muscle, sarcopenia. That is, you have begun to replace your muscle mass with fat, and the fat is producing inflammatory signal molecules, cytokines, that are the same as those produced by your immune system cells in response to an infection.

Most of the symptoms we associate with aging are just poorly managed chronic inflammation, as a result of replacing muscle with fat. The fat is metabolically lethargic, so you actually need less food, as your muscle mass declines. The result is that it is progressively easier to put pounds on. That is the bad news. The good news is that building muscle requires at least one of the inflammatory cytokines produced by fat, IL-6, so gaining muscle should be easier until you get back into shape. Losing weight is also anti-inflammatory, if the loss is fast enough to produce a fasting physiology.

All of the diseases associated with increasing age are just the accumulation of problems that result from increasing levels of chronic inflammation. Most of the increase is the result of inflammatory diet, but the increasing inflammation also decreases the desire to be physically active, with the result being a loss of muscle mass. Adjustment to an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, can reverse the aging process.

It is also possible to be physically active and have a youthful muscle mass, but still have an inflammatory diet. The result will still be chronic inflammation, and cryptic inflammatory diseases that accumulate with time and produce sudden failures of joints, coronary arteries or cancer. Estrogens are also naturally anti-inflammatory, so women will find that menopause reveals any inflammatory diet/lifestyle that has been hormonally camouflaged. Thus, menopause may produce any of the typical signs of inflammation, e.g. acne, depression, back problems, arthritis, etc.

The bottom line is that a weak gut and/or extra body fat will cause problems at any age. And at any age, the diseases that are associated with inflammation can be minimized or avoided by an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle/exercise.

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