There seems to be a body clock for everything. The latest one is called “inflammaging” – the body clock that controls inflammation and is the driver of many age-related health problems.
When we talk of inflammation, we tend to think of the kind you can see on the skin: redness, swelling and pain.
But there is another kind that goes on deep within the body involving destructive chemicals that are behind conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
It’s this kind of inflammation that plagues old age. And scientists have been searching for interventions to fight it.
It’s probable the benefits of healthy lifestyle habits, including exercise and a balanced diet, are adding years to our inflammation body clock and could prevent early onset of diseases related to ageing.
So researchers at Birmingham University have examined how inflammageing – the increase in inflammation in the body as we age – can be slowed through lifestyle choices and potential drug therapies.
Among the potentially protective factors they identified was diet – including certain vitamins, minerals and microbiome-based interventions such as probiotics.
Potential medicines that could be used to manage systemic inflammation include statins.
Dr Niharika Duggal, from the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at Birmingham University and lead author of the study, said: “Good or healthy ageing is becoming a priority in biomedical research, partly because simply extending lifespans is resulting in a range of age-related disorders.
“Research into the biological processes involved in age-related inflammation means we can consider what protective factors may reduce burden on healthcare from age-related issues, from risk of trips and falls due to frailty through to cognitive ageing and increased risk of getting cancer.”
I got in touch with Dr Duggal who told me that vitamin D supplements might have an anti-inflammatory effect in older people, as well as probiotics and prebiotics.
Jessica Conway, PhD researcher at the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, and study co-author, said: “The review considers two distinct areas for healthy inflammaging.
“While we recognise that lifestyle factors are an attractive proposition for policy makers and confer a whole host of benefits beyond inflammaging, we also recognise that there is a burgeoning market for new medicines in healthy ageing too, including a potential role that statins could play.”
Future clinical trials on anti-ageing drugs should include their effect on inflammation too.