A study by the Research Institute for Internal Medicine, University of Oslo, has revealed that over eating increases the immune response causing the body to generate excessive inflammation leading to chronic disease.
The researchers of the study examined the molecular reasons why obesity or being overweight is so harmful to the human body.
“We believe that there is a connection between metabolism, inflammation, heart attack and stroke,” says Bente Halvorsen, professor at the Research Institute for Internal Medicine, University of Oslo. “With this new knowledge, we can better understand why too much food can cause such serious diseases as heart attack, stroke, cancer and chronic intestinal inflammation.” Professor Halvorsen conducted the study with Pål Aukrust and Arne Yndestad.
A number of health conditions are caused by inflammation including arthritis and heart attacks. Both conditions are characterized by an acute and powerful inflammatory reaction.
“We can reduce the inflammatory reaction by losing weight. Some people risk never getting rid of the inflammation. We have attempted to understand what is needed to reduce the inflammatory reaction without having to lose weight,” Halvorsen said.
“Mankind’s great challenge has consisted in obtaining sufficient food and surviving infections. Today, we rarely die of infections, but on the other hand we eat too much,” said Arne Yndestad.
The damage to the cell is caused by stress to mitochondria which convert fatty acids to energy. “When the cells receive excessive energy, the system starts to falter, and the engine may stall. Too much fatty acid causes an oxidative stress in the cells. We believe that long-term stress on the mitochondria may cause metaflammation. A metaflammation is a low-grade chronic inflammation over many years, and unfortunately it’s a condition that’s difficult to detect,” said Yndestad.
A key enzyme has been linked to the regulation and signaling of the inflammatory reaction. “We believe that this enzyme can be regulated by overnutrition and that it is a key constituent in the inflammatory reaction. We have found that the plaque in the arteries of patients with arteriosclerosis contained a lot of this enzyme. When the plaque bursts, the patient may suffer a stroke,” Halvorsen pointed out.
The same metabolic pathway has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. “Cancer cells need access to a lot of energy to divide. The cellular stress may transform cells to cancer. Studies of overweight may therefore give us a better understanding of cancer,” Halvorsen said.