Inflammation is most often associated with muscle injuries such as sprains or pulls. In the case of such injuries the inflammatory response is localised, and is the body’s response to the injury. This response includes heat, pain, redness, swelling and loss of function. In the tissue these effects are caused by the accumulation of blood and immune cells in order to begin the healing process, and the stimulation of the nerve endings in the damaged tissue.
Sports injuries as described above are acute in nature. The Inflammatory reaction forms almost immediately on injury and lasts for at most a few weeks. After this time the tissue continues to heal and no further detrimental effects are felt. However, as well as being acute, inflammation can be chronic. Low grade chronic inflammation is long lasting and generally subclinical (almost undetectable). However, chronic inflammation can cause serious disease.
Chronic Inflammation And Cardiovascular Disease
Although many people believe that cardiovascular disease is caused by dietary cholesterol and saturated fat, this is actually false. Other mechanisms are now thought to be the cause of cardiovascular disease. Evidence suggests that cardiovascular disease is characterised by low grade systemic inflammation. Systemic inflammation is bad because it generates free radicals, and these can deplete the body of antioxidants, thus generating oxidative stress.
The Downside Of Oxidative Stress
Systemic inflammation generates systemic oxidative stress. This Oxidative stress depletes the antioxidants in the body and then causes tissue damage. In particular, oxidative stress can interfere with nitric oxide production in the walls of arteries, and this causes them to respond incorrectly to the flow of blood. As blood flows through arteries they dilate to accommodate the pressure change, but nitric oxide depleted arteries cannot do this and so blood pressure increases.
What Causes the Systemic Inflammation?
The systemic inflammation in cardiovascular disease is caused by the accumulation of immune cells in white adipose tissue (fat cells). As the fat cells are infiltrated by immune cells such as macrophages, chemicals called cytokines are released. These chemicals are the cause of the inflammation. One sort of adipose tissue in particular is associated with such immune response, and that is the fat that accumulates around the belly (abdominal fat).
What Causes Abdominal Fat?
The cause of abdominal fat accumulation in man and animals is well known. In fact the ability of a particular dietary constituent to cause the belly fat that leads to chronic systemic inflammation has been the subject of research for decades. The compound is fructose, a molecule of which is found in common table sugar (sucrose). Is sugar the primary cause of cardiovascular disease? Scientific evidence suggests that yes, sugar is a very likely candidate.
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