Some Body Fat Inflammation Keeps us Lean and Healthy

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers now say that some body fat inflammation is needed to keep us lean and healthy. Inflammation in body fat tissue, thought to cause diabetes type 2 and other diseases including cancer, seems to be necessary to stay healthy. TNF-alpha protein, an inflammatory cytokine found in fat tissue, turns fat cells into lean cells.

Professor Peter Arner who led the study explains that research has been focused on inflammation in fat tissue found in obese individuals, and thought to be harmful. Obesity has been implicated as a leading risk for type 2 diabetes, but the link has never been clear. “However, when we investigated adipose tissue from healthy and lean young women, we found that inflammation also is necessary for fat cell turnover in the lean, healthy state."

The researchers found a number factors that produce inflammation in body fat. One of the most important is TNF-alpha, an inflammatory protein that signals fat cell turnover that is now found to help keep us healthy and thin.


"This observation was only made for TNF-alpha, since there was no relationship between other inflammatory factors and adipocytes size or number", says Professor Arner. "Furthermore, the relationship was not found in obese women who were investigated at the same time as the lean ones."

Finding ways to regulate body fat inflammation, the type that could fight obesity and keep us lean, could asl mean better treatments for type 2 diabetes.

The ability of fat tissue to produce and secrete the inflammatory TNF-alpha protein was found to be an important factor for keeping us lean and healthy. The researchers found a strong relationship between the size and number of fat cells in the adipose tissue among the healthy, lean women and the ability of fat tissue to produce and secrete TNF-alpha that is a cytokine.

The findings show that some body fat inflammation is necessary for fat cell turnover to keep us lean, and not all inflammation in body fat is harmful.

Karoinska Institutet