Low-grade chronic inflammation perpetuated by modern diet as a promoter of obesity and osteoporosis

Jasminka Z. Ilich 1 , Owen J. Kelly 2 , Youjin Kim 3  and Maria T. Spicer 1
  • 1 Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
  • 2 Adult Clinical Nutrition, Abbott Nutrition, Columbus, Ohio
  • 3 USA, Bayer CropScience Ltd. Seoul, South Korea


Some of the universal characteristics of pre-agricultural hominin diets are strikingly different from the modern human diet. Hominin dietary choices were limited to wild plant and wild animal foods, while the modern diet includes more than 70 % of energy consumed from refined sugars, refined vegetable oils, and highly processed cereals and dairy products. The modern diet, with higher intake of fat has also resulted in a higher ratio of omega-6 (n-6) to omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), contributing to low-grade chronic inflammation (LGCI) and thus promoting the development of many chronic diseases, including obesity and osteoporosis. In this review, we describe the changes in modern diet, focusing on the kind and amount of consumed fat; explain the shortcomings of the modern diet with regard to inflammatory processes; and delineate the reciprocity between adiposity and inflammatory processes, with inflammation being a common link between obesity and osteoporosis. We present the evidence that overconsumption of n-6 PUFA coupled with under-consumption of n-3 PUFA results in LGCI and, along with the increased presence of reactive oxygen species, leads to a shift in mesenchymal stem cells (precursors for both osteoblasts and adipocytes) lineage commitment toward increased adipogenesis and suppressed osteoblastogenesis. In turn, high n-6 to n-3 PUFA ratios in the modern diet, coupled with increased synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines due to adiposity, propagate obesity and osteoporosis by increasing or maintaining LGCI.

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