The word inflammation should draw your immediate attention because of the pain and suffering associated with it. But as you already know, the low-grade silent inflammation that is the root cause of chronic diseases and obesity does not cause obvious symptoms, and that’s why it’s said to be silent.
Silent inflammation is in fact a normal immune response triggered by free radicals produced by environmental causes or when food is converted into cellular energy in our body. When there is a lack of adequate amounts of protective antioxidants and phytonutrients to counteract the free radicals, they can interact and cause oxidative damage to the genes and DNA, lipids (fats), proteins, and cell membranes.
The oxidative damage can trigger a low-grade silent inflammation throughout the body that lingers for years or decades leading to production of inflammatory hormones and chemicals, which turn on genes causing fat storage and disease, and simultaneously turn off genes reducing inflammation and health risk. This weak immune response is the root cause of chronic degenerative disease such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
This is the reason why chronic diseases of adulthood are showing up in kids twenty to thirty earlier than expected—this trend is steadily rising in America and around the world. However, the good news is that you could protect your kids from these trends by providing them with foods able to lower the inflammation in their bodies, such as salmon, tuna, vegetables and fruits. When your kids are not getting adequate amounts of anti-inflammatory foods, the levels of Omega—3 fatty acids in the cells and tissues are low. As a result, their body is more vulnerable to attack by environmental poisons and chemicals triggering destructive free radicals.
For instance, in Westernized diets, the consumption of Omega-6 fatty acids associated with inflammation in the body is about 20 times greater than the Omega-3 fatty acids—this imbalance in the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is believed to be responsible for the level of high inflammatory hormones and chemicals in the body. By comparison, in Japan, the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is 4 to 1, favoring a much healthier balance.
Furthermore, Westernized diets are also low in vegetables and fruits that are the major sources of protective antioxidants and phytonutrients that help fight damaging free radicals. Antioxidants and phytonutrients also directly or indirectly assist the body to heal and repair itself by lessening the course of inflammation. They provide the body with a natural defense system and in essence our body needs antioxidants and phytonutrients to repair and rejuvenate itself.
Gum Disease Linked To Obesity?
For most of us it’s difficult to see how a simple gum disease can also lead to tooth and gum decay (periodontal disease or gingivitis)—and ultimately linking to obesity and chronic disease in our children. Yet, there is a connection. According to recent studies, tooth and gum decay is on the rise among young children. Tooth decay in young children can form very quickly, and untreated decay can produce an infection that can spread to other areas of the body. Recently, a 12-year old boy died when bacteria from an abscessed tooth spread to his brain. Apparently his mother had been unable to afford dental care. But there is more to gum disease and tooth decay than this type of catastrophic event. Young children with tooth decay have a greater likelihood that they will suffer with gum and tooth problems as teenagers and adults.
Fortunately, this is a problem that is easy to prevent and correct if it already exists. Tooth decay and gum disease are caused when bacteria infect the tooth and gums with the infection gradually destroying the tissues—and also causing bad breathe. Your kids would be more vulnerable to this problem if you are giving them more processed snack foods, sodas and bottled water instead of fluoridated tap water. They are also at risk if they are consuming too much sugar and sweets. The excess sugar creates the conditions for bacteria to grow and cause gingivitis—which is simply an inflammation of the gum line. Apparently, children who eat a lot of sugary snacks and sweets are more likely to have gum disease and poor oral hygiene, as well as heavy bacteria growth in their oral cavity—increasing the inflammation in their bodies that triggers fat storage and obesity.
You can easily prevent gum disease by cutting off the extra sugar and sweets and encouraging your child to brush properly after every meal and to floss daily. Some studies have also shown that Listerine, a mouthwash, is as effective as floss at fighting tooth decay and gum disease.
You should also make sure that your child gets proper oral hygiene and regular dental visits, especially if you suspect that the child is at high risk for obesity and chronic disease. If left untreated, gum disease can cause a low-grade silent inflammation that promotes the storage of toxic body fat and obesity long after the infection is resolved.
Interestingly, the inflammatory cells that are attracted in the mouth not only attack the plaque along the gum line, but may also attack other distant tissues and organs, such as the kidneys and heart. As a result, gum disease is now the leading cause of heart disease in adults behind smoking due to the silent inflammation. In people with severe gum disease, the levels of inflammation increase, suggesting an increased risk for heart disease several years before it becomes severe enough for symptoms to be detected. The most vulnerable population for this problem consists of young obese children who are likely to grow into obese adults.
This article was excerpted from:
New Prescription for Childhood Obesity
by Billy C Johnson, MD, PhD.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, iUniverse. Copyright 2008. www.iuniverse.com
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