Santa Claus with dumbbells in the gym for Christmas.

Preventing That Christmas Belly That Shakes Like Bowl Full of Jelly

We can all picture Santa Clause with his rosy cheeks and his belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. However, those red cheeks could be inflammation that is occurring from the obesity and gluten sensitivity of one too many cookies. This year, the FDA defined obesity as a disease and classified it as a chronic inflammatory condition. Our fat tissue is actually a metabolic organ that produces hormones. Weight puts a strain on our heart, and our joints and shifts our biochemistry. 
Obesity is an inflammatory disease1Researchers have concluded that inflammation may lead to obesity, but extra fat cells also contribute to inflammation1Medical professionals have long understood the danger of abdominal fat, which produces inflammatory molecules called cytokines1Obesity causes chronic inflammation that contributes to atherosclerosis and causes more than 3.4 million deaths per year2The pathophysiologic mechanisms in obesity that contribute to inflammation and atherosclerosis include activation of adipokines/cytokines and increases in aldosterone in the circulation2.
Inflammation could be a symptom of celiac disease, an autoimmune disease where an immune response is triggered in susceptible individuals when gluten is digested. This immune response damages cells in the lining of the small intestine. When the immune system is triggered in this way, it also causes inflammation that can affect other body tissues1.In individuals with a sensitivity to gluten, the protein is deemed a foreign invader by the body. This leads to inflammation.

Inflammation and weight gain have a complex relationship where they can cause each other. Weight gain triggers the immune system and releases inflammatory mediators, which can be measured by C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. Studies have shown a linear association between weight gain and inflammation over time 1.

Inflammation affects glucose levels, insulin resistance, and the hormone leptin, which regulates appetite and energy. Inflammation in the body can lead to insulin resistance due to inflammatory compounds that impair the way insulin works. This leads to higher glucose levels, as well as fat accumulation in the liver which further contributes to insulin resistance 2.

Leptin is a key hormone that tells the brain when to eat, when to stop eating and when to speed up or slow down metabolism. However, research suggests that leptin functioning is altered with weight gain and inflammation. The effect is that the brain doesn’t get proper feedback, so leptin levels remain low which triggers the appetite to increase and metabolism to slow (as if the body were starving), making weight loss pursuits even harder 2.

So being moderate in eating and drinking around the holidays can help prevent weight gain and its associated inflammation, which can have negative effects on glucose levels, insulin resistance, and appetite regulation.