Does Inflammation Caused by Obesity Result in Diabetes ?


What comes to mind when considering the term “inflammation”? A festering pimple, or perhaps a high fever, an infected tooth, toe, abscess? These are typical examples of inflammation. Inflammation may exist in many other forms however, including possibly obesity.

Inflammation describes the immune system when it is activated. The presence of pus or fever are obvious forms of this. More subtle forms of inflammation can exist in the body. Recently, researchers from Australia, presented evidence that obesity itself is associated with abnormal activation of the immune system, or in other words, inflammation. This inflammation might in turn, cause type 2 diabetes. It is already becoming clear that the inflammation associated with obesity contributes to insulin resistance, the first step in the development of type 2 diabetes. In a study just published in the June volume of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (95:2845-2850, 2010), patients with either type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes were evaluated for the distribution of inflammatory blood cells before and after gastric band surgery. Abnormal immune activation or inflammation was detected in this group. After an average of 13% weight loss following gastric surgery, the scientists found up to an 80% reduction in inflammatory blood cells. Many of the patients were able to significantly reduce their diabetic medications after the weight loss. The conclusion is that inflammation may result from obesity and is reversible when significant weight is lost. Metabolic problems like diabetes improve as the inflammation is reduced, as well. Therefore, inflammation may be part of the reason people develop diabetes as their weight increases.

Studies like this will provide new avenues for attacking the development of type 2 diabetes due to excessive weight gain, and possibly to help find ways of combating obesity, as well.

Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor-in-Chief, metabolism.com

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