UBCO studies how exercising can counteract chronic inflammation – Kelowna News


The University of British Columbia Okanagan is looking at the connection between exercise and reducing chronic inflammation.

UBCO researchers Dr. Jonathan Little and Dr. Hashim Islam are studying how chronic inflammation can prevent a person’s immune system from protecting them and how exercise might be the answer.

Dr. Little an associate professor and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Islam are both with the UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

“Chronic inflammation is when there is an imbalance of pro-and anti-inflammatory molecules in your body. We use the example of a slow-burning flame, or a brake, in the context of chronic disease,” explains Dr. Little.

“Most people study the pro-inflammatory molecules and how to reduce them—which is similar to taking the fuel off the fire. Our work, which is quite novel, is looking at how to make anti-inflammatory molecules like interleukin-10—similar to a fire extinguisher—work better and stop the inflammation.”

Dr. Islam says the immune system is critical for preventing infections, removing pathogens and repairing damaged tissues during recovery from an illness or injury. But when immune cells become overactivated, they can overproduce and release small hormone-like molecules that can impair the normal function of vital tissues and organs in the body.

“This persistent state of immune cell overactivation is known as chronic inflammation and is linked to the development and progression of various long-lasting illnesses that are commonly found in modern society. These include cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension or stroke and Type 2 diabetes—and we’re particularly interested in studying the Type 2 diabetes aspect,” says Dr. Islam.

Lifestyle factors such as imbalanced nutrition, weight gain, obesity and physical inactivity can aggravate chronic inflammation, adds Dr. Little. These conditions increase a person’s chance of getting various cardiometabolic diseases. On the other hand, exercise and diet-induced weight loss are effective for reducing chronic inflammation in the body and lowering the risk of developing cardiometabolic disease.

The researchers are specifically looking at interleukin 10, a molecule that normally acts to inhibit inflammation and the mechanisms that may explain why and when interleukin-10 is not working well to inhibit inflammation for people with Type 2 diabetes. The goal is to implement a practical lifestyle intervention that will involve short, frequent bouts of activity—post-meal walking or exercise snacking—throughout the day to improve blood glucose and restore the anti-inflammatory actions of interleukin-10.

“This approach has demonstrated glucose-lowering benefits in people with Type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Islam. “Given the earlier-identified link between hyperglycemia and impaired interleukin-10 action, this may be a viable non-pharmacological strategy to restore anti-inflammatory cytokine action in people with Type 2 diabetes.”


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