Why Inflammation and Aging Are Like Oil and Vinegar – Part 2

Written by Anil Bajnath, MD
Posted April 22, 2021

Dear Longevity Insider,

As we age, the signals that send chemical messages across our bodies tend to become more inflammatory. This inhibits our immune system and can cause muscle wasting, bone loss, and other detrimental effects. This gradual increase of systemic inflammation in the body as we age is called inflammaging.

This consistent growth in inflammation leads to cells increasingly activating a chemical in their nuclei that regulate inflammation. This protein complex, called NF-kB, is involved in responses to heavy metals, free radicals, bacterial and viral antigens, and even stress. When it is over-produced, it leads to damaging consequences and becomes a significant risk factor as we age.

Cellular senescence, one of the antagonistic hallmarks of aging, is one of the main factors contributing to inflammaging. Senescent cells are known to negatively affect neighboring cells because they release pro-inflammatory cytokines, growth factors, and proteases that affect the function of nearby cells and incite local inflammation. This is a concept known as the bystander effect.

Inflammaging also hinders our immune system’s ability to effectively clear pathogens and dysfunctional cells, such as those that turn into cancer. This is known as immunosenescence. 

And as inflammatory reactions accumulate, neurohormonal signaling also becomes deregulated as we age. When NF-kB is activated in the hypothalamus, it has been shown to inhibit the production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). The reduction of this hormone can lead to skin degradation, muscle weakness, and bone fragility. It can also affect food intake and metabolism.

How to improve intercellular communication

Dietary/caloric restriction, mentioned in many of our blogs in this series, is one of the most studied ways to potentially restore, or at least improve communication between our cells as we age. As recently as February 2020, scientists in the US and China collaborated to study the cellular effects of a calorie-restricted diet.

"The primary discovery in the current study is that the increase in the inflammatory response during aging could be systematically repressed by caloric restriction," says co-corresponding author Jing Qu, also a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Including more foods that are known to reduce inflammation, such as green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, berries, and olive oil can help to reduce the effects that inflammaging has on our bodies as we age. "A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life," Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, says.

Additionally, since the gut microbiome is an integral part of our immune system, it appears possible to extend healthy aging and lifespan by focusing on the health of our intestinal bacterial ecosystem.

Here's my most prized research about combating aging on a cellular level.

To your longevity,

Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Officer, Longevity Insider HQ