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Overview and current knowledge

What and how we eat and our lifestyles have a critical impact on our health. 

Numerous studies have highlighted that a diet overly rich in carbohydrates combined with a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor not only for overweight and obesity but also for numerous chronic illnesses: type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, certain cancers, etc.

Chronic disease risks

Type-2 diabetes

Type-2 diabetes causes a chronic increase in blood glucose levels, which leads to a condition known as hyperglycaemia. An individual is more likely to develop type-2 diabetes when the sensitivity of their cells to insulin is reduced (known as insulin resistance).

Insulin is a pancreatic hormone which helps the body’s cells utilise glucose and thus helps to lower blood glucose levels. It is now known that overweight or obesity and/or excessive consumption of carbohydrates and sugars is a risk factor for insulin resistance.

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Cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular disease is a term that covers all pathologies which relate to the process of atherosclerosis – during which fatty material (plaque) builds up in the arteries causing them to narrow and obstruct the blood flow. The consequences are: angina, cerebrovascular accident (stroke), heart failure, etc.

As with high blood pressure, age is the main risk factor for cardiovascular disease. However, once again, we know that being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits age the arteries more quickly, making them harder and facilitating the formation of atheromatous plaques (fatty deposits) in the arteries

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Cancer

Overweight and obesity are recognised as risk factors for the development of certain types of cancer: breast cancer in post-menopausal women, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, cancer of the kidney, liver or bowel. Numerous studies have identified a link between excess body weight and an increase in the levels of several hormones, some of which are involved in the proliferation of cancer cells.

Osteoarthritis

Furthermore, it is also known that being overweight is a risk factor for osteoarthritis, not only of the hip and knee (i.e. the joints which must withstand the additional mechanical forces) but also of the hands and fingers. A number of studies have highlighted the adverse effects on the cartilage of certain cytokines secreted by the adipocytes (fat cells).

Overweight people produce excess amounts of these cytokines which contribute to the inflammation.

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