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Fixin' Healthcare

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Lifestyle Chronicles - Gulliver And The Lilliputians

One theory for a common cause of disease is inflammation. It has been implicated in cardiovascular disease as a trigger mechanism that initiates and propagates the disease process. Chronic inflammation generates tissue response and influences the immune response. A common cause of inflammation is infection, which is considered in some circles as a cause of artery disease with cholesterol as a secondary participant.

Flossing teeth is associated with better general health. One reason proposed is that flossing benefits gum health, reducing a source of chronic inflammation and improving the immune response.

Elevated C-reactive protein indicates the presence of chronic inflammation. In addition to lowering blood cholesterol statin agents also lower C-reactive protein. The implication being that the therapeutic mechanism of action for statins might be as anti-inflammatory agents.

Obesity is an inflammatory condition with fat cells exhibiting characteristics of immune cells and secreting inflammatory compounds. Inflammation is considered a basis for development of some diseases associated with obesity and it also may be a cause of obesity. An upcoming article in the NY Times Sunday Magazine by Robin Marantz Henig describes theories relating viral infections and intestinal microflora to the cause of obesity.

Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar has coined the term "infectobesity" to indicate the possibility of viral infection resulting in obesity. Evidence supporting this conclusion originated with chickens dying from viral infection exhibiting increased abdominal fat associated with normal cholesterol and triglycerides. Adenovirus infection in animals resulted in the same condition. Humans with prior adenovirus infection accumulated excess body fat with normal blood cholesterol and triglycerides.

A second line of investigation is based upon the human body is a resevoir for a multitude of bacteria. Many of these bacteria are linked with human metabolism producing compounds essential for health and life, vitamin K is an example. Bacteria in the intestine have been demonstrated with assisting in the extraction of calories from food and storing these calories in fat cells.

Dr. Jeffery Gordon observed that germ-free mice ate as much or more than ordinary mice but had 60% less fat. When intestinal microbes from ordinary mice were transfered into the germ-free mice, both groups were the same weight within two weeks. The proposed mechanism is bacterial suppression of a protein that ordinarily prevents the body from storing fat. Further, the balance and interaction between different gut bacteria can increase calorie extraction from polysaccharides leading to additional body fat.

It is too early to draw any conclusions from these research activities that might lead to prevention or treatment of obesity. But, it does reinforce the notion that obesity is a heterogeneous condition and it is extremely complex. To understand the true nature of obesity may lead to a new understanding of health care; it is that basic.

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