Can Inflammation Make You Gain Weight? What You Need to Know

Spread the love

In your quest to understand the complex relationship between your diet, lifestyle, and overall health, inflammation has often been overlooked. At first glance, this biological response may seem unrelated to weight management, yet mounting evidence suggests a strong link between the two. This article aims to delve into the intricacies of how inflammation can potentially contribute to weight gain, providing a unique perspective on your understanding of obesity and its underlying causes.

Inflammation is a physiological process that the body employs as part of its defense mechanism. This natural response is activated when the body encounters harmful stimuli such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. It involves releasing chemicals from white blood cells to protect the body from foreign substances. These chemicals increase blood flow to the area of injury or infection, which can cause redness and warmth, common signs of inflammation. While acute inflammation is often beneficial, helping to heal wounds and fight off infections, chronic inflammation – a persistent and low-grade inflammation – can be detrimental to health. It is this chronic inflammation that is increasingly being linked to weight gain and obesity.

How does inflammation contribute to weight gain?

Chronic inflammation can contribute to weight gain through several mechanisms. One key way is by interfering with the body’s insulin receptors. Usually, insulin helps regulate blood sugar by enabling glucose uptake in your cells. When inflammation disrupts this process, the body becomes less responsive to insulin, a condition known as insulin resistance. Consequently, glucose remains in the bloodstream, leading to higher blood sugar levels and prompting the body to produce more insulin. This excess insulin can make you feel hungry, causing overeating and, over time, weight gain.

In addition, studies suggest that inflammation may promote fat storage. Certain inflammatory chemicals can stimulate the growth of new fat cells, especially in the abdominal region. Furthermore, inflammation can disrupt the normal functioning of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin, leading to increased hunger and potentially contributing to weight gain. However, it’s important to note that the relationship between inflammation and weight gain is complex and influenced by many factors, including diet, lifestyle, and genetic predisposition.

Inflammation can also interfere with digestion and nutrient absorption. Prolonged inflammation in the digestive tract can damage the gut lining, leading to a condition commonly called ‘leaky gut.’ This can result in undigested food particles entering the bloodstream, triggering an immune response, further inflammation, and potentially more weight gain.

Moreover, inflammation is believed to affect your metabolism. Metabolism determines how many calories your body burns throughout the day. When inflammation slows down the metabolic rate, fewer calories are burned, which can lead to weight accumulation. Furthermore, the stress associated with chronic inflammation may lead to cortisol elevation. Cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone,’ can lead to weight gain, especially in the abdominal area.

In summary, while the precise role of inflammation in weight gain is still being investigated, it’s clear that inflammation can contribute to weight gain through several mechanisms, including disrupting insulin and leptin function, promoting fat storage, damaging gut health, slowing metabolism, and contributing to stress-related weight gain. Managing chronic inflammation is crucial to maintain a healthy weight and overall health.

What are the different types of inflammation and their effects on weight?

Inflammation can be classified into two main categories: acute and chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation is a short-term response typically lasting a few hours to a few days. It’s the body’s defense against harmful stimuli like injuries or infections. Acute inflammation does not normally influence weight as it’s a temporary response. However, if acute inflammation frequently occurs, it could lead to chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is a prolonged, low-grade inflammation that can persist for several months or even years. This type of inflammation is often linked to long-term diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Chronic inflammation is more likely to influence body weight. As discussed earlier, it can lead to insulin resistance, disrupt appetite regulation, promote fat storage, and slow down metabolism – all factors contributing to weight gain and obesity. The link between chronic inflammation and weight gain is also bi-directional: obesity itself can lead to a state of chronic low-grade inflammation, creating a vicious cycle.

Another type of inflammation worth mentioning is systemic inflammation. This is when inflammation isn’t localized to a specific area of the body but affects the entire system. Like chronic inflammation, systemic inflammation could contribute to weight gain through similar mechanisms, primarily by disrupting normal metabolic processes.

While acute inflammation doesn’t seem to directly impact weight, chronic and systemic inflammation can contribute to weight gain through several mechanisms. Managing these types of inflammation is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and overall wellness.

How can one manage inflammation to control weight?

Managing inflammation could potentially play a significant role in weight control. One effective approach is through dietary changes. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish and flaxseeds, have anti-inflammatory properties. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can also help reduce inflammation. On the other hand, processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats can promote inflammation and should be limited.

Regular physical activity is another powerful tool for managing inflammation and weight. Exercise has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers in the body. It also helps improve insulin sensitivity, boosts metabolism, and aids in weight management.

Adequate sleep and stress management are also crucial. Lack of sleep and high stress levels have been associated with increased inflammation. Implementing stress-reducing practices such as meditation, yoga, or deep-breathing exercises can help manage inflammation.

Lastly, if you’re overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight can significantly reduce inflammation. A healthcare provider or a dietitian can help create a personalized weight loss plan.

Remember, while the relationship between inflammation and weight gain is complex, you might be able to manage your weight better and improve your overall health by managing chronic inflammation. However, more research is needed to fully understand this intricate relationship and develop comprehensive strategies for weight management.

What factors can exacerbate inflammation and contribute to weight gain?

Several factors can exacerbate inflammation and contribute to weight gain, making it crucial to be aware of them for effective weight management. One of the primary culprits is an unhealthy diet.

Poor Diet

Consumption of processed foods, foods high in sugar and trans fats, can spike inflammation levels in the body, disrupting normal metabolic processes and thus leading to weight gain. Excessive alcohol intake and smoking are also known to induce an inflammatory response, which can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Furthermore, overeating or consuming a high-calorie diet can lead to obesity, which itself is linked to chronic inflammation.

Lack of Physical Activity

Lack of physical activity is another significant contributor. Sedentary behavior can lead to weight gain and obesity, and it has been linked to increased levels of inflammation. Regular physical activity, on the other hand, can help reduce inflammation and improve weight management.

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress is another factor that can exacerbate inflammation. When the body is in a constant state of stress, it produces an excess of the hormone cortisol, which promotes inflammation. This not only contributes to weight gain but is also linked with a host of other health issues. Finding ways to manage stress, such as regular exercise, mindfulness practices, or therapy, is crucial for overall health and weight management.

Inadequate Sleep

Poor sleep can also contribute to increased inflammation and weight gain. Sleep deprivation disrupts normal hormonal regulation, leading to increased hunger and inflammation. Additionally, insufficient sleep can impact metabolism and energy levels, making it challenging to maintain an active lifestyle.

Smoking and Alcohol

Both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are linked to increased inflammation and weight gain. These habits can disrupt normal metabolic processes, leading to weight gain and other health issues.


Lastly, obesity itself is a key factor that exacerbates inflammation. Excess body fat, especially around the abdomen, produces inflammatory cytokines that can trigger a cycle of inflammation and weight gain.

Several lifestyle factors can exacerbate inflammation and contribute to weight gain, including an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, chronic stress, poor sleep, and obesity. By managing these factors, one can reduce inflammation, aiding in weight management.

How to reduce inflammation and lose weight

Reducing inflammation and losing weight requires dietary changes, increased physical activity, and lifestyle modifications.

Healthy Eating

Begin by incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet. These include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Whole grains have also been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and foods high in saturated fats, as these can trigger inflammatory responses.

Regular Exercise

Engage in regular physical activity. Exercise contributes to weight loss, improves body metabolism, enhances insulin sensitivity, and can reduce inflammation markers. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise most days of the week. Incorporating strength training into your routine can also help build lean muscle mass, boosting metabolism and aiding in weight management.

Adequate Sleep

Prioritize getting adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation can disrupt hormonal balance, resulting in increased hunger, higher inflammation levels, and weight gain. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Create a relaxing bedtime routine and stick to a consistent sleep schedule.

Manage Stress

Implement strategies to manage stress. Chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. Techniques such as mindfulness, yoga, and deep-breathing exercises can help reduce stress levels. Also, make time for activities you enjoy and prioritize self-care.

Stop Smoking and Limit Alcohol Consumption

Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are both linked to increased inflammation and weight gain. If you smoke, seek help to quit, and try to limit your alcohol intake to the recommended daily amount.

Regular Check-ups

Regular check-ups can help monitor your inflammation levels and weight. Health professionals can provide personalized advice and make necessary amendments to your plan. They can also screen for any underlying health conditions that may contribute to inflammation and weight gain.

By making these lifestyle changes, you can reduce inflammation and achieve sustainable weight loss. It’s important to remember that everyone is unique, so what works for one person may not work for another. It’s always best to consult a healthcare professional before significantly changing your diet or exercise regimen. They can provide personalized advice based on your individual health needs and goals.

How can inflammation be prevented?

Preventing inflammation primarily involves adopting a wholesome lifestyle that supports overall health and well-being.

Follow a Healthy Diet

A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help mitigate inflammation. Specifically, foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, such as berries, fatty fish, nuts, and green leafy vegetables, have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Conversely, try to limit the consumption of processed foods, red meat, and sugary beverages, which can trigger inflammation.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese can increase inflammation in the body. Therefore, maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity. Even a small amount of weight loss can significantly reduce inflammation.

Regular Physical Activity

Regular physical activity helps control weight, strengthens the cardiovascular system, and has anti-inflammatory effects. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise every week.

Get Adequate Sleep

Sleep is essential for health, including inflammation regulation. Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can increase inflammation. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.

Manage Stress

Chronic stress can exacerbate inflammation. Stress-management techniques, such as mindfulness, yoga, deep-breathing exercises, or other relaxation techniques, can help manage stress levels and decrease inflammation.

Avoid Smoking and Limit Alcohol Intake

Both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to inflammation. If you smoke, take steps to quit. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.

Regular Health Check-ups

Regular health screenings can help detect any signs of inflammation and prevent them from becoming chronic. Your healthcare provider can provide personalized advice based on your health needs and goals.

Preventing inflammation involves making healthy lifestyle choices. A balanced diet, regular exercise, good sleep hygiene, stress management, and regular health check-ups are key strategies to prevent inflammation. It’s always best to consult a healthcare professional before significantly changing your diet or exercise regimen.


Here are some frequently asked questions about inflammation and weight gain.

What type of inflammation causes weight gain?

Chronic and systemic inflammation can contribute to weight gain through several mechanisms. This type of inflammation is not localized but affects the entire body, disrupting normal metabolic processes.

How do you know if your body has inflammation?

Some common signs of inflammation include redness, swelling, pain, and tenderness in the affected area. However, systemic or chronic inflammation may not have obvious physical signs and often goes undetected without proper medical screening.

Why does inflammation make you weigh more?

Inflammation can lead to weight gain through various mechanisms, such as disrupting insulin sensitivity, increasing the production of appetite-stimulating hormones, and promoting fat storage. Additionally, inflammation often leads to fluid retention, contributing to temporary weight gain.

Does inflammation go away on its own?

Acute inflammation can resolve on its own within a few days or weeks. However, managing chronic inflammation may require medical intervention and lifestyle changes.


Risk factors: chronic inflammation. (2015, April 29). National Cancer Institute.

Peuhkuri, K., Vapaatalo, H., & Korpela, R. (2010). Even low-grade inflammation impacts on small intestinal function. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 16(9), 1057.

Beishuizen, A., Groeneveld, A. B. J., & Vermes, I. (2007). Hypotension, hypovolemia, and septic shock. In Elsevier eBooks (pp. 413–420).

How much sleep do I need? (2022, September 14). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Scroll to Top