Chronic systemic inflammation is an underlying cause of many age-related diseases. As people age, systemic inflammation can inflict devastating degenerative effects throughout the body (Ward 1995; McCarty 1999; Brod 2000). Persuasive scientific evidence exists that correcting a chronic inflammatory condition will help to prevent, or reverse, many diseases associated with aging.
Aging results in an increase of pro-inflammatory cytokines (destructive cell-signaling chemicals) that contribute to the progression of many degenerative diseases (Van der Meide et al. 1996, Licinio et al. 1999). Rheumatoid arthritis is a classic autoimmune disorder where excess levels of cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin 1b [IL-1(b)], and/or interleukin-8 (IL-8) are all known to cause or contribute to the inflammatory process (Deon et al. 2001).
Chronic inflammation is also involved in diseases as diverse as atherosclerosis, cancer, heart valve dysfunction, obesity, diabetes, congestive heart failure, digestive system diseases, and Alzheimer's disease (Brouqui et al. 1994, Devaux et al. 1997, De Keyser et al. 1998). In people with multiple degenerative diseases, the inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein is often sharply elevated, indicating the presence of an underlying inflammatory disorder (Invitti 2002, Lee et al. 2002, Santoro et al. 2002, Sitzer et al. 2002).
Several studies have shown that the blood indicators of inflammation are strong predictive factors for determining who will suffer a heart attack (Lindahl et al. 2000, Packard et al. 2000, Rader 2000). A growing consensus among scientists is that common disorders such as atherosclerosis, colon cancer, and Alzheimer's disease are all caused in part by a chronic inflammatory condition.
It is well established that elevated C-reactive protein, IL-6 and other inflammatory cytokines indicate significantly greater risks of contracting or dying from specific diseases (heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and others). One study showed that people with high levels of C-reactive protein were almost three times as likely to die from a heart attack (Ridker et al. 1997).
In a study of almost 5,000 elderly people, researchers found that frail seniors were more likely to have signs of increased inflammation than their more active counterparts (Walston et al. 2002). This study showed that the frail seniors with elevated blood inflammatory markers also tended to show more clotting activity, muscle weakness, fatigue and disability than active elderly people.
An anti-inflammatory diet and supplements such as proteolytic enzymes, mineral salts, and fish oils can help to control the factors of inflammation, and reduce the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fraction of fish oil is the best documented supplement to suppress TNF-a, IL-6, IL-1(b), and IL-8 (Jeyarajah et al. 1999; James et al. 2000; Watanabe et al. 2000; Yano et al. 2000). A study on healthy humans and those with rheumatoid disease shows that fish oil suppresses these dangerous cytokines by up to 90% (James et al. 2000).
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