Inflammation vs. Inflammaging

As we age, our body changes. We become less of the person we were in our thirties, forties, or fifties. It becomes more difficult to maintain a youthful-looking body. Even more difficult to maintain a healthy and high-performance body. The more we advance with our age, the more complicated our health problems might be.

While there is no exact formula to predict how our bodies are going to change, there is one underlying process in the body that occurs as we age. This process is known as inflammation.

Inflammation is the immune system’s response to injury or any compromise that our bodies experience. In the short term, it can be beneficial, and necessary, in the long run, it can be detrimental7.

However, during the aging process, most of us run the risk of increased, long-term (that is, chronic) inflammation17. This type of inflammation is low-grade; it develops slowly over time as we age14. Unfortunately, this aging-related process has also been associated with hastening the biological process of aging14.

Such age-related, chronic, low-grade inflammation is known as Inflammaging8.

Critically, inflammaging can also contribute to and worsen various age-related diseases, including cancer, chronic heart diseases, musculoskeletal diseases, or conditions such as Alzheimer’s14,12,10,5. It also contributes significantly to the increased mortality risk as we age.

Inflammaging was first coined in 2000 by the Italian immunologist Claudio Franceschi11. Over the past two decades, scientific research has made significant progress in understanding better what inflammaging is, how it differs from acute inflammation, and how it is related to age-related diseases.

Inflammaging & Age-Related Diseases

Inflammaging can precede a variety of age-related diseases. Scientific research has revealed that:

  • Chronic low-grade inflammation has been associated with aging and plays a causative role in several age-related diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, and osteoarthritis9,5,2;
  • Chronic low-grade inflammation can also contribute to and worsen various age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, type II diabetes, and chronic heart diseases14,12,10;
  • Last but not least, age-related chronic low-grade inflammation has been recognized as a significant factor for sarcopenia (muscle deterioration). As we age, our tissues accumulate high levels of inflammatory cell signaling molecules (cytokines). These molecules, signaling inflammation contribute to the degeneration of our muscles1, 6.

Light Therapy can counteract some inflammatory cytokines15 since they can be induced by oxidative stress and Light Therapy alleviates oxidative stress.

Inflammaging & The Immune System

Inflammation may be beneficial to your body, as long as it triggers the immune system to fight pathogens or to promote wound healing7. This would require the body to produce new cells and repair damaged tissue. In contrast, inflammaging opposes the body’s immune system. Inflammaging creates a chronic, low-grade, persistent background of inflammation that leads to poor tissue repair, and degeneration18.

Inflammation also relates to the production of senescent cells, aging cells that are unable to divide4. Senescent cells normally occur throughout our entire lifetime. They can have beneficial roles in a variety of psychological and pathological processes, including embryogenesis (the embryo formation out of the fertilized egg cell), wound healing, host immunity (e.g., protection from infections), and tumor suppression4.

However, the steady accumulation of senescent cells with age also has adverse consequences. The cells begin to occupy key cellular niches and stimulate the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (signaling molecules), which contribute to aging-related diseases and morbidity13.

While inflammaging may be an ongoing background process in your body, remember that you can always ease it down by eating healthy food and engaging in regular exercise and physical activity. By taking steps to live a healthy lifestyle, you will also reduce the risk of age-related diseases19.

Mitochondria & Inflammaging

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells and your body, providing you with energy, and maintaining your health. But aging and decline of your immune system mean that your mitochondria are inevitably affected, too.

Your body begins to accumulate cell debris, which is inappropriate and incomplete cell destruction and clearance that is a byproduct of the aging process3. Cell debris consists of damaged cell organelles (a cell’s subunits). Generally, the immune system leads the charge of cleaning up cell debris. However, when the body retains cell debris, it’s more prone to persistent inflammation.

For instance, aged and damaged mitochondria (organelles) releases DAMPs (mitochondria-derived damage-associated molecular patterns). Since these signal to the body that the mitochondria are failing, scientific research has associated DAMPs with inflammaging and age-related diseases20. Healthy mitochondria are absolutely essential for preventing inflammaging and promoting healthy aging.

Can You Limit Chronic Low-Grade Inflammation?

Chronic low-grade inflammation is harmful. It can accelerate age-related diseases, lower the quality of life, and, ultimately, speed up the aging process. However, there are a few things that we can do to limit inflammaging and its consequences.

Scientists are already developing therapies that can selectively destroy senescent cells (cells that stopped growing) to reduce inflammation. This could be a clinical intervention for managing inflammaging.

There are a number of lifestyle choices that you can personally do to reduce inflammaging. One key step is to make sure you get enough sleep16. Sleep is essential in helping your body recover and rejuvenate; lowering the negative side-effects of aging and inflammation16.

Proper nutrition is also vital. Such as adjusting your diet with food choices that can reduce oxidative stress or background inflammation in your body. Making sure that you eat food rich in antioxidants such as vegetables and fruits is always a good idea.

Finally, you can always opt-in for Light Therapy treatments. Light Therapy reduces inflammation and oxidative stress. It also heals the body at the cellular level, thus strengthens it or helps it to recover faster from a vast array of conditions. Always feel free to reach out to our team via Facebook or Twitter to discuss the benefits of Light Therapy for your health.

Follow the Light Lounge blog to stay up-to-date on the latest news from the world of health and science.

  1. Beyer, I., Mets, T., & Bautmans, I. (2012). Chronic low-grade inflammation and age-related sarcopenia. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 15(1), 12–22. doi: 10.1097/mco.0b013e32834dd297
  2. Boren, E., & Gershwin, M. (2004). Inflamm-aging: autoimmunity, and the immune-risk phenotype. Autoimmunity Reviews, 3(5), 401–406. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2004.03.004
  3. Cellular debris. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2020, from https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cellular_debris
  4. Cellular senescence. (2020, January 15). Retrieved February 5, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellular_senescence
  5. Childs, B. G., Gluscevic, M., Baker, D. J., Laberge, R.-M., Marquess, D., Dananberg, J., & Deursen, J. M. V. (2017). Senescent cells: an emerging target for diseases of ageing. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, 16(10), 718–735. doi: 10.1038/nrd.2017.116
  6. Cytokine. (2020, January 26). Retrieved February 4, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cytokine
  7. Ferrero-Miliani, L., Nielsen, O. H., Andersen, P. S., & Girardin, S. E. (2006). Chronic inflammation: importance of NOD2 and NALP3 in interleukin-1? generation. Clinical and Experimental Immunology, 0(0). doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2006.03261.x
  8. Franceschi, C., Garagnani, P., Parini, P., Giuliani, C., & Santoro, A. (2018). Inflammaging: a new immune–metabolic viewpoint for age-related diseases. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 14(10), 576–590. doi: 10.1038/s41574-018-0059-4
  9. Freund, A., Orjalo, A. V., Desprez, P.-Y., & Campisi, J. (2010). Inflammatory networks during cellular senescence: causes and consequences. Trends in Molecular Medicine, 16(5), 238–246. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2010.03.003
  10. Fülöp, T., Dupuis, G., Witkowski, J.M. Larbi, A. (2016). The Role of Immunosenescence in the Development of Age-Related Diseases, Rev Invest Clin, 68 (2): 84–91
  11. Fulop, T., Larbi, A., Dupuis, G., Page, A. L., Frost, E. H., Cohen, A. A., … Franceschi, C. (2018). Immunosenescence and Inflamm-Aging As Two Sides of the Same Coin: Friends or Foes? Frontiers in Immunology, 8. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01960
  12. Giunta, B., Fernandez, F., Nikolic, W. V., Obregon, D., Rrapo, E., Town, T., & Tan, J. (2008). Inflammaging as a prodrome to Alzheimer's disease. Journal of Neuroinflammation, 5(1), 51. doi: 10.1186/1742-2094-5-51
  13. He, S., Sharpless, N. E. (2017). Senescence in health and disease. Cell, 169(6), 1000-1011. Doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.05.015
  14. Inflammaging. (2019, December 3). Retrieved January 25, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflammaging
  15. Inflammatory cytokine. (2019, November 13). Retrieved February 4, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflammatory_cytokine
  16. Irwin, M. R. (2019). Sleep and inflammation: partners in sickness and in health. Nature Reviews Immunology, 19(11), 702–715. doi: 10.1038/s41577-019-0190-z
  17. Sanada, F., Taniyama, Y., Muratsu, J., Otsu, R., Shimizu, H., Rakugi, H., & Morishita, R. (2018). Source of Chronic Inflammation in Aging. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, 5. doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2018.00012
  18. Straub, R. H., & Schradin, C. (2016). Chronic inflammatory systemic diseases – an evolutionary trade-off between acutely beneficial but chronically harmful programs. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health. doi: 10.1093/emph/eow001
  19. Szic, K. S. V., Declerck, K., Vidaković, M., & Berghe, W. V. (2015). From inflammaging to healthy aging by dietary lifestyle choices: is epigenetics the key to personalized nutrition? Clinical Epigenetics, 7(1). doi: 10.1186/s13148-015-0068-2
  20. Zhang, Q., Raoof, M., Chen, Y., Sumi, Y., Sursal, T., Junger, W., … Hauser, C. J. (2010). Circulating mitochondrial DAMPs cause inflammatory responses to injury. Nature, 464(7285), 104–107. doi: 10.1038/nature08780

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