Written by: Jonine Möller, M.Sc. in Sport Science
Inflammation is critical to the body’s immune response, essential for fighting off infections and healing injuries. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a cytokine that plays a key role in regulating the body's inflammatory response. However, it is also well known that excessive inflammation can lead to various health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Obesity is very strongly associated with systemic inflammation. In fact, studies suggest that obesity is the primary cause of increased systemic inflammation, which leads to all the subsequent health conditions mentioned above.
However, recent research has shown that genes significantly determine an individual's systemic levels of IL-6. A person's genetic makeup can impact the amount of IL-6 produced by their body, which in turn affects the level of inflammation in the body. This is due to variations in the IL-6 gene that affect its expression and activity.
For example, some people may have a genetic variant that results in higher levels of IL-6. This can lead to an overactive immune system, causing a constant state of low-grade inflammation that can lead to long-term health problems. On the other hand, individuals with a genetic variant that results in lower levels of IL-6 may be less susceptible to inflammation-related health problems.
Furthermore, studies have found that genes inferred in obesity may likely also contribute to increased inflammation, but not vice versa. Subsequently, a large portion of SNPs are shared between obesity and inflammation (as increased levels of IL-6 and CRP).
Dietary factors also significantly influence the systemic levels of IL-6. Research has shown that diets high in processed foods and sugar can increase inflammation in the body, while diets rich in anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can reduce inflammation. In addition, consuming omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish and flaxseeds, has been shown to decrease inflammation in the body.
In conclusion, genetic factors may play a significant role in determining an individual's systemic levels of IL-6 and their susceptibility to inflammation-related health problems. To maintain a healthy level of inflammation, it is important to eat a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods and low in processed foods and sugar. Additionally, those with higher levels of IL-6 may need to be extra vigilant about their dietary choices to maintain optimal health.
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