This is one of my articles originally published on Care2. You can view it here.
Obesity greatly increases your risk for disease (such as diabetes and heart disease). We know that already. But is being overweight truly the direct cause?
The short answer is, well, no.
In fact, being obese doesn’t directly cause you any health problems at all.
Obesity (BMI greater than 30) is actually just a marker of disease. Just as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or sleep apnoea are markers of disease risk, so is obesity.
Basically, an unhealthy lifestyle will give different symptoms to different people.
For example “Patient A” may develop high blood pressure but maintain a healthy weight. Whereas “Patient B” may have normal blood pressure but gain excessive weight easily. Both patients have increased risk for disease (assuming they have unhealthy lifestyles), but their body’s show this risk with different markers.
So if obesity is not the root cause of the problem, then what is?
Inflammation Is The Real Killer
Or metaflammation to be more exact. It’s a form of long-term, low-grade inflammation of the cells.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, our body’s valuable protection mechanism – inflammation – may actually be the root cause of many chronic diseases we normally blame on obesity.
The inflammation we typically recognize and acknowledge is when we have sore muscles, an injury or a sunburn. Because they ache. We don’t notice metaflammation because it doesn’t physically hurt. But the signs are there, we just never realized what they were.
You see inflammation requires a delicate balance. If the body’s inflammatory response does not switch off or gets too intense, it can harm otherwise healthy tissues. Then it becomes long-term inflammation- and a health problem.
So just to clarify: yes being overweight or obese does indirectly increase your risk factor for disease, because it’s a marker, a signal, to show there’s a problem.
But the actual driver behind the problem, appears to be long-term inflammation. So we can say that inflammation is the cause of the cause.
Reducing Internal Inflammation
If we reduce our body’s internal inflammation, we can better manage blood pressure, cholesterol levels, weight loss and all other diseases associated with unhealthy lifestyle habits.
And the best cure for inflammation is of course, food. Real food. And particularly foods high in anti-oxidants, which help combat inflammation.
Below are the top 6 anti-inflam foods to indulge in this summer:
Berries: Including blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. They are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods available due to their high levels of phytonutrients, in particular a compound called anthocyanin. These are the best ones.
Mushrooms: New studies continue to find that mushrooms are in fact nutrient powerhouses, and are home to a very powerful and hard-to-find antioxidant- ergothioneine. Most other vegetables are high in anti-oxidants too, but none can compare to mushrooms.
Spices: Turmeric, ginger and garlic are thought to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. The curcumin in turmeric has often been found to be more effective than pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory drugs.
Cruciferous vegetables: These veggies are actually flowers, all nutrient-rich, particularly in antioxidants. They include broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale and cauliflower.
Salmon or other oily fish: Very rich in omega-3 fatty acids (known as EPA and DHA), the most effective anti-inflammatory nutrients. But be mindful that world-wide fish stocks are under threat so it’s best to choose sustainable fish. Fish oil supplements make a great alternative, otherwise the vegetarian options mentioned above definitely suffice.
Green Tea: Natural flavanoids in green tea have potent anti-inflammatory properties. The effects remain with or without milk.