~Aging and Inflammation

~Aging and Inflammation
Reprinted with permission of Life Extension®.

Chronic systemic inflammation is an underlying cause of many seemingly unrelated, age-related diseases. As humans grow older, systemic inflammation can inflict devastating degenerative effects throughout the body (Ward 1995; McCarty 1999; Brod 2000). This fact is often overlooked by the medical establishment, yet persuasive scientific evidence exists that correcting a chronic inflammatory disorder will enable many of the infirmities of aging to be prevented or reversed.

The pathological consequences of inflammation are well documented in the medical literature (Willard et al. 1999; Hogan et al. 2001). Regrettably, the dangers of systemic inflammation continue to be ignored, even though proven ways exist to reverse this process. By following specific prevention protocols suggested by the Life Extension Foundation, the inflammatory cascade can be significantly reduced.

The Causes of Age-Related Inflammation

Aging results in an increase of 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 in which 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 known to cause or contribute to the inflammatory syndrome (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 aged 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). When a cytokine blood profile is conducted on people in a weakened condition, an excess level of one or more of the inflammatory cytokines, e.g., TNF-a, IL-6, IL-1(b), or IL-8, is usually found (Santoro et al. 2002).

Protecting Against Inflammatory-Related Disease

The New England Journal of Medicine published several studies in the year 2000 showing 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 syndrome.

Seemingly unrelated diseases have a common link. People who have multiple degenerative disorders often exhibit excess levels of pro-inflammatory markers in their blood. Here is a partial list of common medical conditions that are associated with chronic inflammation:

  • Allergy -- Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions
  • Alzheimer's -- Chronic inflammation destroys brain cells
  • Anemia -- Inflammatory cytokines attack erythropoietin production
  • Aortic valve stenosis -- Chronic inflammation damages heart valves
  • Arthritis -- Inflammatory cytokines destroy joint cartilage and synovial fluid
  • Cancer -- Chronic inflammation causes many cancers
  • Congestive heart failure -- Chronic inflammation contributes to heart muscle wasting
  • Fibromyalgia -- Inflammatory cytokines are elevated
  • Fibrosis -- Inflammatory cytokines attack traumatized tissue
  • Heart attack -- Chronic inflammation contributes to coronary atherosclerosis
  • Kidney failure -- Inflammatory cytokines restrict circulation and damage nephrons
  • Lupus -- Inflammatory cytokines induce an autoimmune attack
  • Pancreatitis -- Inflammatory cytokines induce pancreatic cell injury
  • Psoriasis -- Inflammatory cytokines induce dermatitis
  • Stroke -- Chronic inflammation promoted thromboembolic events
  • Surgical complications -- Inflammatory cytokines prevent healing


A critical inflammatory marker is C-reactive protein. This marker indicates an increased risk for destabilized atherosclerotic plaque and abnormal arterial clotting. When arterial plaque becomes destabilized, it can burst open and block the flow of blood through a coronary artery, resulting in an acute heart attack. One of the New England Journal of Medicine studies 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).

The Life Extension Foundation long ago advised members to have an annual C-reactive protein blood test to detect systemic inflammation that could increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer and a host of age-related diseases. In fact, on January 28, 2003, the American Heart Association and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) jointly endorsed the C-reactive protein test to screen for coronary-artery inflammation to identify those at risk for heart attack.

The number of inflammatory-related diseases that could be successfully treated with cytokine-lowering therapy is staggering. PTX and supplements such as fish oil, nettle leaf, DHEA, and vitamin K possess mechanisms of suppressing inflammatory cytokines. Unfortunately, there are no side-by-side comparisons to enable us to categorically state whether PTX or natural agents (such as DHA fish oil) work better.

Foods cooked at high temperatures can produce a browning effect in which glycotoxins are formed from the reaction of sugars and oxidized fats with protein. Glycotoxins may contribute to low-grade chronic inflammation. High glycemic foods may also contribute to the inflammatory process. Dietary modifications to reduce inflammation should include elimination of foods and cooking processes that contribute to a chronic state.

For those who have multiple degenerative diseases, the cytokine profile blood test and the C-reactive protein blood test are highly recommended. If your cytokine test reveals excess levels of cytokines such as TNF-a, IL-1(b), or both, nutritional supplementation, dietary modifications, and low-cost prescription medications such as PTX are advised.

The following supplements are suggested:

  • The docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fraction of fish oil may be the most effective nonprescription supplement to suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines. Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is a precursor of PGE1, a potent anti-inflammatory agent. A product called Super GLA/DHA provides 920 mg of GLA, 1000 mg of DHA, and 400 mg of EPA in 6 capsules.
  • DHEA is a hormone that decreases with age. DHEA has been shown to suppress IL-6, an inflammatory cytokine that often increases as people age. Typical doses of DHEA are 25-50 mg daily, although some people take 100 mg daily.
  • Nettle leaf has been shown to suppress the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-a. Nettle leaf can be taken seperately or in ArthroPro System. Take 1000 mg daily.
  • Vitamin E and N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) are protective antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin E that contains gamma tocopherol and tocotrienols provides the most broad-spectrum protection. Take 1-2 capsules daily of Gamma E Tocopherols/Tocotrienols. NAC is an amino acid with antiviral and liver protectant properties. One 600-mg capsule daily is recommended.
  • Vitamin K helps reduce levels of IL-6, a pro-inflammatory messenger. Vitamin K also helps in the treatment of osteoporosis by regulating calcium and promoting bone calcification. One 10-mg capsule daily is recommended for prevention purposes.
  • Consuming at least 1000 mg a day of carnosine and/or 300 mg of the European drug aminoguanidine can inhibit pathological glycation reactions in the body.


Note: It is illegal for the manufacturers of PTX to distribute this off-label information to the public. Life Extension can provide this information because it does not sell PTX.

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