It’s a Journey – the Inflammation Creep

As promised so far on this journey, the common chronic diseases (of which diabetes is one) creep along together due to inflammation. That means no one condition stands alone.

Anything that activates your immune system is inflammatory. Inflammation is step one when the immune system starts trying to fix whatever is wrong. Chronic, perpetual inflammation reflects a failure to fix on the immune system’s part.

Immune system activation will occur because a virus, bacteria, fungi, etc. manages to arrive in your body through your skin, lungs, or digestive system.

However, the immune system is easily activated with the introduction of certain food, chemicals, etc. – stuff that your body was not designed to handle — or when your genetics aren’t perfect. Further, obesity also induces chronic inflammation, activating the immune system in unfortunate ways. This turns out to be big.

I quote from the Journal of the American Heart Association. (https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/ATVBAHA.119.312467)

The immune system plays an important role in obesity-induced adipose (fat) tissue inflammation and the resultant metabolic dysfunction, which can lead to hypertension, dyslipidemia, and insulin resistance and their downstream sequelae of type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.”

In other words, as said in a previous post, “on the frontage road creeping toward diabetes, dragging all those other health problems along the way.”

So How Does Food Play Into This?

The average American gets almost 70% of calories from ultra-processed foods, which are pro-inflammatory due to high ingredient quantities of sugar and fructose, refined flour, trans fat, refined vegetable oils, salt, additives and preservatives. These are things your body was not designed to handle, particularly in volume.

Think carefully about averages, of course. They are actually a combination of higher and lower numbers.

Foods made from those ingredients, including processed meat, fast food, chips, baked goods (breads and sweets), deep-fried foods, candy and soda are high calorie, pro-inflammatory, and nutritionally empty.

These are the foods that can cause or contribute to extremes in blood glucose and insulin. Diabetics have usually heard about this stuff.

Extremes accumulate and eventually damage everything that the blood stream highway touches. As we already know, damage creates inflammation, the first mark of an activated immune system.

The “downstream sequelae of type 2 diabetes mellitus”

Sequelae is an interesting word. In this context it means that type 2 diabetes is a consequence of all the rest of the stuff going wrong. That isn’t something that most diabetics know.

When a person’s fasting glucose as measured in a blood test is at or above 126, the diabetes diagnosis is confirmed by a special blood measurement called A1c. A1c is the average of glucose stuck (glycated) to red blood cells over the last three months. An A1c above 6.4 is considered diabetic.

You may rest assured that the level of overweight/obesity and diabetes (and all the other stuff going wrong) in America is tied to that food. As you gain your way toward your body fat capacity (how much room there is in your fat cells), the fat becomes pro-inflammatory, engaging the immune system all by itself.

A century ago people ate food harvested from their garden/ the trees and animals that grew on the land or water. Sugar was an extravagence. Obesity was rare. Times have changed.

In 1995 10– 20% (depending on the state) of Americans were obese. In 2007, 20-40% were obese. These days the overall adult obesity rate is 42%, 73% of people are overweight or obese. Look at the youngsters and you will know where they may be headed.

In 2017 13.4 percent of children aged 2-5 years were obese, 20.3 percent of children aged 6-11 years were obese, 21.2 percent of adolescents aged 12-19 years were obese. Don’t forget my admonition about averages.

80% of diagnosed diabetics are visibly overweight or obese. Most of the other 20% have fat hiding out viscerally in and around body organs like the liver. The 20% don’t have as much storage room in their adipose fat cells and the fat has to go somewhere.

Conclusions can be drawn here.

The odds that you can blame bacteria, viruses etc. and your genetics for your ill health are very small. Consequently you and your children are left with the food eaten, the amount of body fat accumulated, and the degree of inflammation both cause as the source of chronic health issues – even issues that you have not yet recognized.

For many people this is a problem easily corrected.

I have a friend who bought my book many months ago for a reason that had nothing to do with him personally. Three months ago he stopped by to tell me, “nothing like a diabetes diagnosis to get your attention.” At the time of diagnosis his A1c was 6.9.

He’s a pretty smart guy and figured out what he had to do all by himself while avoiding a crash diet (which is never a good idea.) Slowly but surely his weight has come off, several underlying health issues resolved, and he feels and actually looks like a million dollars.

Next month I will learn what his new A1c is. But neither of us is worried about it. Let there be no confusion. My friend knows he isn’t on a “diet” but a new life-time way of eating.

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Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is http://www.allaboutthefood.org/ She can be contacted at patsmith2@live.com, 501-605-3902. Her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/patsmithbooks.