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Weight Loss and Your Biomarkers, Continued: How Inflammation and ALT Affect Your Body Size and Shape

By Perrin Braun, September 4, 2014

 

As explained in our previous blog post, there are certain blood biomarkers that are particularly relevant for people who are looking to lose weight. We’ve already discussed the important roles that vitamin D, glucose, cortisol, and testosterone play in weight management.  Inflammation and ALT, or alanine aminotransferase, are two additional biomarkers that you should be aware of when your weight is a concern. weight loss

How is inflammation reflective of your weight?

Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting itself from harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens. To be clear: infection is not the same as inflammation. Infection happens when a bacterium, virus, or fungus invades your body, while inflammation happens when your body tries to remove those invaders. Inflammation plays a critical role in maintaining your body’s immune system and heart function, which means that it is responsible for keeping us healthy. The two main biomarkers that pertain to inflammation are:

C-reactive protein (CRP)This is a type of protein that is found in the blood and is one of the best indicators of inflammation that we have.  Levels of CRP rise as inflammation increases, so knowing your CRP level can tell you a lot about what’s going on inside your body. Very high levels of CRP can also indicate impaired immune response or inflammatory disease. Since CRP is a protein found in your blood, the only way to get information about your levels is to have a blood test analyzed through a service such as InsideTracker.

White blood cells (WBC) – These cells play an important role in your body’s immune system, searching the blood for invading viruses, bacteria, and fungi. When a foreign virus or bacteria enters your bloodstream, the white blood cell recognizes and destroys the invading particle before it can cause disease. Since white blood cells fight off infection, you might think that an elevated white blood cell count is actually beneficial. But this is not necessarily the case. Although a high white blood cell count isn’t a specific disease, it can indicate another problem, such as infection, stress, inflammation, trauma, or allergy.. That’s why a high WBC count usually requires further investigation. The best way to get information about WBC levels is to have a blood test analyzed through a service such as InsideTracker.

Click here to learn how InsideTracker can help you control your inflammation levels and optimize your weight!

So, what does this have to do with your weight? Obesity is actually characterized by low-grade inflammation. The fatty tissues in the body secrete hormones that work to regulate inflammation, and having too much fat can throw this process out of balance. Additionally, foods that often correspond with weight gain—such as those that are high in saturated and trans fats, calories, sugar, and salt—are believed to promote inflammation. Fatty foods that are high in LDL cholesterol are especially problematic because when excess LDL cholesterol seeps into the inner portion of your artery walls, it triggers an inflammatory response, and white blood cells rush to protect the damaged area. Areas of cell damage attract fatty substances, blood-clotting materials, and white blood cells. When these materials accumulate, plaque (which is a combination of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, and calcium) can form, which often results in even more hardened arteries and another cycle of inflammation. So, while inflammation is sometimes a protective and healing process, too much cholesterol can lead to a continuous state of inflammation.

How can you control inflammation?

The good news is that studies have shown that weight loss has the potential to improve or regulate sub-optimal inflammation levels.  To lower your inflammation levels and lose weight, aim to eat foods that are high in antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E, fiber, calcium, fish oils, mono-unsaturated fats, and those that are low on the glycemic index. Specific foods that have been shown to lower inflammation include garlic, grapes, herbs and spices, nuts, olive oil, black and green teas, and vinegar. Aim to eat at least six servings of fruits and vegetables per day, which will benefit your inflammation levels while supplying important nutrients.  In order to lower your cholesterol, you can replace unhealthy fats (such as saturated and trans fats) with healthy fats and replace refined carbohydrates with whole grains.

How is ALT reflective of your weight?

Found primarily in your liver cells, ALT is an enzyme that plays a role in converting stored glucose into usable energy. When liver cells are damaged, ALT can leak out into your bloodstream. Normally, there is only a small amount of ALT in your blood; higher levels of ALT typically indicate liver injury. One of the more frequent causes of high ALT levels is a condition commonly referred to as fatty liver, which is a reversible condition that occurs when large amounts of triglycerides accumulate in liver cells. Essentially, fatty liver occurs when excess fat accumulates inside liver cells. The infiltration of fat in the liver slows down the metabolism of your body’s fat stores, which means that it becomes more difficult to maintain or lose weight. In the United States, alcohol abuse is one of the largest contributors to fatty liver, but other causes include elevated blood glucose and excess body weight. The best way to get information about ALT levels is to have a blood test analyzed through a service such as InsideTracker.

How can you control your ALT levels?

In addition to alcohol intake,what you eat also has an effect on ALT. Limiting high-fat foods, especially ones that are derived from animal sources, may help decrease elevated ALT levels. High-fat foods increase fat levels in your blood, which may end up being deposited in the liver. Choose to eat lean proteins, such as chicken breast, fish, or beans, and low-fat dairy products. Reduce the refined carbohydrates and sugars in your diet. Instead, eat whole foods like beans, whole grains, berries, oatmeal, and vegetables, which provide fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Studies have also shown that folic acid aids in decreasing ALT and improving liver health. Foods high in folic acid include black-eyed peas, fortified breakfast cereals, brussel sprouts, and avocado.  

One of the most important steps you can take to lose weight and take control of your health is to know what’s happening in your body. The best way to determine your inflammation and ALT levels, as well as to understand the status of all of your other biomarkers, is to get a blood test done, like the one we offer at InsideTracker. The InsideTracker blood analysis system will tell you whether your white blood cell, CRP, and ALT levels are in the optimal zone for you. InsideTracker’s powerful algorithm will also provide you with tailored dietary and lifestyle recommendations on how to optimize. Knowing your blood status will go a long way to keeping you healthy and lean!

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