I recently attended the Australian Lifestyle Medicine Conference organised by the Australian Lifestyle Medicine Association. This article examines the hot conference topic – “low-level systemic inflammation” and its astounding link to chronic degenerative diseases like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and high cholesterol levels!
Not all fatness indicates disease risk. Not all leanness indicates lack of disease risk. So what is the one factor that is a potent indicator of disease risk? It is an inflammatory process called metaflammation, para-flammation or smouldering inflammation. This condition appears to be inextricably linked with individual lifestyle behaviours like:
- poor diet
- excessive exercise (modern endurance events)
- inadequate sleep (due to deprivation, insomnia or sleep disorders like sleep apnoea)
- mental states like anxiety or depression
- environmental stressors
- excessive alcohol
Markers of inflammation are expressed through a range of immune mediators such as cytokines, chemokines, adipokines, myokines and transcription factors. Recently, C-reactive protein has gained more attention than NFkB, TNF alpha and Il-6 but overall, these are common markers used to identify unhealthy inducers of metaflammation. It seems, the lifestyle-related inducers listed above are associated with oxidative stress, insulin resistance and eventual development of disease states.
Regularly consuming high glycaemic foods or large quantities of highly processed carbohydrate foods leads to inflammation and aging of cells. As Professor Jennie Brand Miller, world leading authority on the glycaemic index puts it very simply, “High GI foods lead to high inflammatory markers due to oxidative stress. What happens is that the high glucose load overwhelms the power-house (mitochondria) in the cell causing lots of free radicals to be generated. This leads to death of the mitochondria and eventual cell death.” In essence, aspire to eat like traditional natives and regularly choose low GI foods.
Regular moderate level physical activity, approximately ½ to 1 hour per day most days of the week is anti-inflammatory. Getting 8 hours of good quality sleep daily is also vital. It appears that the “stress-like’’ effects of sleep deprivation and the accompanying hormonal changes are associated with obesity.
In an advanced society like ours, mental states associated with stress, anxiety and depression seem to generate acute inflammatory responses accompanied by elevated levels of cytokines. Smoking also elicits a parallel reaction. Both of which are linked to degenerative diseases.
In a nutshell, the maintenance of a disease-free state lies squarely in our hands. Health is about consistently choosing pro-life behaviours through good nutrition, exercise, good quality sleep, relaxation and powerfully choosing joy-filled states. What are your views? Please post you comments below.