Neuroendocrine factors in the regulation of inflammation: excessive adiposity and calorie restriction

Exp Gerontol. 2009 Jan-Feb;44(1-2):41-5. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2008.04.005. Epub 2008 Apr 12.


Acute inflammation is usually a self-limited life preserving response, triggered by pathogens and/or traumatic injuries. This transient response normally leads to removal of harmful agents and to healing of the damaged tissues. In contrast, unchecked or chronic inflammation can lead to persistent tissue and organ damage by activated leukocytes, cytokines, or collagen deposition. Excessive energy intake and adiposity cause systemic inflammation, whereas calorie restriction without malnutrition exerts a potent anti-inflammatory effect. As individuals accumulate fat and their adipocytes enlarge, adipose tissue undergoes molecular and cellular alterations, macrophages accumulate, and inflammation ensues. Overweight/obese subjects have significantly higher plasma concentrations of C-reactive protein and several cytokines, including IL-6, IL-8, IL-18, and TNF-alpha. Experimental animals on a chronic CR regimen, instead, have low levels of circulating inflammatory cytokines, low blood lymphocyte levels, reduced production of inflammatory cytokines by the white blood cells in response to stimulation, and cortisol levels in the high normal range. Recent data demonstrate that CR exerts a powerful anti-inflammatory effect also in non-human primates and humans. Multiple metabolic and neuroendocrine mechanisms are responsible for the CR-mediated anti-inflammatory effects, including reduced adiposity and secretion of pro-inflammatory adipokines, enhanced glucocorticoid production, reduced plasma glucose and advanced glycation end-product concentrations, increased parasympathetic tone, and increased ghrelin production. Measuring tissue specific effects of CR using genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic techniques in humans will foster the understanding of the complex biological processes involved in the anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects of CR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Ghrelin / metabolism
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Inflammation Mediators / blood
  • Obesity / immunology*
  • Obesity / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Ghrelin
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Inflammation Mediators