Nutrition Research Reviews

Research Article

Obesity and inflammation: the effects of weight loss

L. Kirsty Forsythea1, Julie M. W. Wallacea1 and M. Barbara E. Livingstonea1 c1

a1 Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, Centre for Molecular Biosciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine BT52 1SA, UK

Abstract

Following the discovery of TNF-α and leptin as secretory products of adipocytes in the early 1990s, subsequent obesity research focused on the new functional role of adipose tissue, as an active endocrine organ. Many more inflammatory peptides have been linked to adiposity, which ultimately characterised obesity as a state of low-grade systemic inflammation, or ‘metaflammation’ which may link obesity to its co-morbidities. The aim of the present review is to examine the effects of weight loss on inflammation in overweight and obese, but otherwise healthy, populations. Studies were broadly classified into four types (diet, physical activity, diet and physical activity combined, and surgical interventions) and discussed according to the method used to induce weight loss. All studies measured at least one obesity-related inflammatory marker (ORIM). The overall finding from the present review is that weight loss does improve inflammation in terms of both the inflammatory (C-reactive protein, TNF-α, IL-6 and leptin) and anti-inflammatory (adiponectin) ORIM. Within this, the greatest improvements in ORIM are observed in studies achieving a weight loss of at least 10 %. However, a number of methodological issues have been identified as potential limitations within the literature including the sex and age of subjects, sample size, study duration and the assessment of body composition. In conclusion, although a period of weight loss per se is capable of reversing the unfavourable inflammatory profile evident in the obese state, further studies are required to determine the time needed, in which a reduced weight is maintained, in order to benefit from improved inflammatory status long term.

Correspondence:

c1 Corresponding author: Professor Barbara Livingstone, fax +44 28 7032 3059, email mbe.livingstone@ulster.ac.uk

Footnotes

Abbreviations: CRP, C-reactive protein; FFM, fat-free mass; FM, fat mass; LCD, low-calorie diet; ORIM, obesity-related inflammatory marker; SAT, subcutaneous adipose tissue; VAT, visceral adipose tissue; VLCD, very-low-calorie diet