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Why Is Being Overweight So Unhealthy?

Sep. 23, 2014|529 views
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By now most of us are aware that overweight and obesity are exceptionally common. In fact, more adults—and even children—are overweight or obese now than ever before in history. It’s been called an epidemic. Up to two-thirds of all American adults are now classified as overweight or obese. Mounting evidence clearly shows that being overweight puts a person’s health at risk. Overweight or obese people are at increased risk for a large number of serious diseases and conditions, including a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. We know this is so.

But why?

According to scientists at the University of Oslo, inflammation is the reason. "We believe that there is a connection between metabolism, inflammation, heart attack and stroke," says Bente Halvorsen, professor at the Research Institute for Internal Medicine at the University of Oslo, Norway. To put it simply; overeating boosts the immune response. Heightened immune system activity usually leads to increased inflammation. And more inflammation leads to an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as atherosclerosis, which are driven by low-level inflammation in the body.

Overeating may put pressure on the mitochondria; the tiny structures within our cells that convert glucose to energy. When we overeat, the body begins storing fatty acids in the cells. Evidence suggests that this causes stress to the mitochondria, and eventually, leads to damage.

"When the cells receive excessive energy, the system starts to falter, and the engine may stall. Too much fatty acid causes an oxidative stress in the cells. We believe that long-term stress on the mitochondria may cause metaflammation. A metaflammation is a low-grade chronic inflammation over many years, and unfortunately it's a condition that's difficult to detect,” says researcher Arne Yndestad.

The very process that stresses and kills mitochondria—overeating—also impairs the body’s ability to remove these damaged structures, and effect repairs. And that causes a heightened inflammatory response to develop. This research confirms what we already know: excess body weight is bad for your health. But it also suggests new areas for research to break the dangerous links among overweight, inflammation and disease. Some day, scientists may develop drugs that are able to decouple overeating from inflammation. Until then, you’d do well to step away from the french fries.

University of Oslo. "Being overweight causes hazardous inflammations." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 August 2014. .


Tags:  obesity, body image, chronic illness