Our Flickering Understanding of Inflammation and Obesity

The understanding that inflammation and obesity are linked in an important and complex relationship is growing with a constant stream of publications that simultaneously provide answers and raise questions.

Robert Considine provides a helpful commentary on one more link between systemic inflammation and obesity — activated monocytes — in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Paired with a new study on the subject, his commentary provides a good summary of the pathways that trigger inflammation after a meal. With triglycerides, saturated fatty acids, oxysterols (derived from cholesterol), and glucose acting as triggers, dietary factors can initiate a chain of inflammatory responses that we have yet to fully understand.

To confirm the limits of our understanding, Jennifer Sargent summarizes new research that describes a role for healthy inflammation to regulate adipocytes. The senior author of this research, Philip Scherer, says:

We thought that inflammation leads to metabolic disease, but actually we need some localized inflammation to prevent metabolic disease.

These twists and turns in the pursuit of a deep understanding of inflammation and obesity provide yet another example of how inadequate simplistic prescriptions are for solving this problem.

“In youth we learn; in age we understand.” — Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Click here to read Considine’s commentary and here to read the study of activated monocytes in obesity. Click here to read Sargent’s commentary and here to read the study of adipocyte inflammation.

Cat and Fire, photograph © Michel Filion / flickr

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