Inflammatory Cytokines: The Angry Fat Messenger

Most people have been getting dietary advice all wrong. Eat less, move more works only for some people for a period of time, but it is not solid long-term dietary advice. Low carbohydrate diets again and again show greater weight loss, increase in HDL, reduction in blood pressure, resolving diabetes and metabolic syndrome and also reduce risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in numerous studies. So why do we still give the wrong information? In the next few articles, we will look at how the body becomes fat and the best performing dietary change for weight loss: a low carb/high fat diet.

Cytokines, along with adipokines, are two hormone-like messengers made by fat cells. These messengers are released by cells and affect the behavior of other cells. Cytokines are proteins released by cells that have a specific effect on the interactions and communications between cells. There are two types of cytokines: pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory.

Inflammatory cytokines are the result of too much fat in the body. These inflammatory cytokines further increase fat storage and disease risk in the body. Here’s a look at how inflammation and obesity are related.

Inflammation has been shown to precede the development of obesity. Infusion of inflammatory cytokines into healthy, normal weight mice caused insulin resistance, the primary promoter of fat production and storage. Research shows that elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines predict future weight gain.

Inflammation begins in the fat cells. More and more fat cells increase oxidative stress (rusting in the body) and fat cells are the first cells affected by increased inflammation, the beginning of a vicious cycle.

Inflammation of the fat tissue causes insulin resistance. TNF-a and C-reactive proteins (both cytokines released during the inflammatory response) have been shown to cause insulin resistance.

Inflammation of the brain control center the hypothalamus causes leptin resistance, which accompanies insulin resistance. Leptin is the hormone that signals to the brain that you are full. When the hypothalamus becomes resistant to leptin, glucose and fat metabolism are impaired, resulting in weight gain and insulin resistance.

Inflammation in the gut also causes leptin and insulin resistance. Gut inflammation may occur through an increase of out of balance bacteria from eating a standard American diet and the metabolic by product of the bacteria, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), an endotoxin that can cause inflammation, insulin resistance in the liver, and weight gain.

In our next article, we’ll take a look at how eating a low-carb diet can control these hormones that are making us fat.

Betty Murray, CN, IFMCP, CHC is a Certified Nutritionist & Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner with the Institute for Functional Medicine, founder of the Dallas-based functional medicine clinic Living Well Dallas and Executive Director of the the Functional Medicine Association of North Texas. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutrition for autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders, MTHFR and weight loss.  You can find her book “Cleanse: Detox Your Body, Mind & Spirit” on Amazon here.

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