Inflammation describes a wide array of immune functions that are supposed to act as a way to get rid of harm in the body, and then to cease. When we get a cold, inflammation runs high as the immune system sends out its troops to conquer the “bad guy” and get it out of the body. This lasts for a few days, maybe a week or so, and then it stops. The same thing happens if you cut yourself or stub your toe—the body senses a threat and sends immune chemicals to defend and protect. Then it stops. This is how the immune system should function.

The immune systems of many people in today’s world, however, are not properly developed, and, thus, they do not properly mount inflammatory responses. In essence, many people have an immune imbalance. Either too much of a response, not enough response, or misplaced response. For many people, a chronic, low-grade inflammation exists, also called silent inflammation. You can’t see it and you can’t feel it, but it simmers away, causing damage and leading to disease. More and more health conditions are being linked with silent inflammation, and the medical establishment is taking notice.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism researchers found that reduced levels of inflammation explain why some obese people remain metabolically healthy. That is, some obese people do not get high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels. This is known as “metabolically healthy obesity.”

Up to 35 percent of obese people are thought to be metabolically healthy, but my guess is that those estimates are based on traditional cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and so, they are probably higher than actuality. You see, the inflammation starts first, and can lead to abnormalities in cholesterol and blood sugar that are not caught on conventional tests. So an obese person may pass his blood tests, but if he has silent inflammation, he is not actually metabolically healthy. Detecting this inflammation using the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) test is recommended (and often covered by insurance—ask your doctor).

While there can be obese people who do not have inflammation, there are also lean people who do have inflammation. They are known as “skinny fat”—thin on the outside, but metabolically unhealthy on the inside. So if you know someone who thinks she can get away with eating terrible because she doesn’t gain weight and her blood levels are great, she’d be wise to consider the fact that her lifestyle is giving her silent inflammation.

It’s not always easy to eat well in today’s world, with treats that tantalize us at every turn, but once you understand the underlying ramifications of your bad habits, you begin to want to change your ways. My hope is that some of the information I share with you will help you to make changes that help you live a vibrant, healthy life.