Ageing is linked to uncontrolled, low-grade inflammation, also known as inflammaging, according to articles published in the journals Nature Medicine and Ageing and Disease. Although chronic inflammation is not felt directly it may set the stage for cardiovascular disease, rheumatism, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Chronic inflammation may also cause virus infections like influenza and COVID-19 to become life-threatening because the immune defense suddenly overreacts and attacks healthy tissue. It is therefore vital for ageing people to protect themselves against chronic inflammation, which means getting plenty of vitamin D, selenium, coenzyme Q10, zinc, omega-3, and melatonin. These are all things that many older people often lack.
Ageing is an intricate process that involves free oxygen radicals and changes within the metabolism, hormone system, and immune system. According to the American biochemist, Bruce Ames, ageing, to a great extent, is the result of nutrient deficiencies. One of the main reasons for these deficiencies is that our uptake and utilization of nutrients gradually decrease with age. Also, a lot of medicine is known to impair nutrient uptake and metabolism, which causes enzyme processes to slow down and makes cells increasingly vulnerable.
As we grow older, our skin becomes thinner and is no longer as effective at producing vitamin D from the sun we get exposed to. We also produce less coenzyme Q10, which is a compound that is vital for our energy turnover. Furthermore, our endogenous production of the sleep hormone melatonin decreases. Both coenzyme Q10 and melatonin are also important antioxidants that protect our cells and tissues.
Finally, many older people have enlarged waist circumference and too much visceral fat and that also increases the risk of chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is the common thread of ageing and age-related diseases
It is essential for the body to be able to initiate acute inflammation, as this is how the immune system attacks dangerous microorganisms and toxins. The white blood cells produce pro-inflammatory cytokines and free radicals that they use as missiles. What is important, however, is that the immune defense steps back as soon as the enemy has been defeated. Otherwise, there is an increased risk of oxidative stress, which is a situation in which potentially harmful free radicals outnumber the protective antioxidants and create an imbalance.
As it turns out, the age-related chronic inflammation known as inflammaging is characterized by mild but uncontrolled inflammation that reinforces the ageing processes and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Also, low-grade, chronic inflammation makes it increasingly likely that normally harmless virus infections like influenza and COVID-19 become life-threatening. This is because the derailed immune defense overreacts with cytokine storm and hyperinflammation that attack healthy tissue.
An article that is published in Aging and Disease looks closer at the pro-inflammatory mechanisms related to ageing, including the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, C-reactive protein (CRP), insulin resistance, lipid accumulation, and stress in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of the cells that controls different metabolic processes inside the cell. Moreover, there may be defects in the mitochondria, which are the cellular powerhouses that produce energy with help from oxygen. These defects may generate more free oxygen radicals when we age and our enzyme processes become sluggish. The impaired oxygen turnover also results in oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
Scientists have started referring to age-related inflammation as “senoinflammation” and they hope that understanding the molecular mechanisms may help prevent age-related, chronic inflammation and the many diseases that follow in its wake.
In the following, we will be looking at studies of the widespread lack of nutrients among older people. These are nutrients that counteract oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
The sun is our main source of vitamin D but many people lack this vitamin during the winter period, or even all year round if they get too little sun. Older people, overweight individuals, and dark-skinned people have difficulty with producing enough vitamin D. Also, many older people and nursing home residents do not get enough sunlight. According to the Irish TILDA report, vitamin D deficiency is widespread among older people in Ireland and this increases their risk of chronic inflammation, and there is also a greater risk of infections like COVID-19 becoming life-threatening. Ove the past years, there has been a lot of research in vitamin D and inflammation. The best results are seen with rather large doses that can raise blood levels of vitamin D to over 50 nmol/L. It is also important to get enough magnesium because it is needed to activate vitamin D.
Selenium is primarily found in fish, shellfish, offal, eggs, dairy products and Brazil nuts. There is widespread selenium deficiency throughout Europe because the agricultural soil is nutrient-depleted. Selenium supports around 30 different selenium-containing enzymes called selenoproteins, including the powerful GPx antioxidants. Selenium protects against virus infections and prevents virus from mutating an becoming increasingly virulent. Selenium supplementation can compensate for the low selenium intake. It is advisable to take selenium yeast with many different types of selenium, as this comes very close to providing the same selenium variety as one gets from eating a balanced diet with different selenium sources.
Inflammation, not cholesterol, causes atherosclerosis
Many clinical studies have demonstrated a strong relation between atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, and inflammation markers such as CRP (C-reactive protein). Cholesterol, which is essential, does not become a threat unless it is oxidized by free radical as a result of inflammation.
Supplementation with selenium and Q10 reduces mortality by 50 percent in seniors
As mentioned earlier, European farmlands lack selenium, and our endogenous Q10 synthesis decreases with age. This is bad news because both Q10 and selenium are of vital importance to the energy turnover and the are also powerful antioxidants that protect our cells and cardiovascular system against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Urban Alehagen, a Swedish cardiologist and scientists, conducted the groundbreaking KiSel-10 study where supplements of selenium and Q10 (or matching placebo) were given to a large group of older men and women for a period of around five years. The study revealed that the participants in the active treatment group had a 54% lower cardiovascular mortality rate and substantially fewer hospitalizations. Follow-ups of the study after 10 and 12 years respectively showed that supplementation with Q10 and selenium had a significant and notable long-term effect on heart function and longevity. It is probably safe to assume that the effect would be even greater with continued use of the supplements.
|Ageing is associated with oxidative stress, which increases our need for antioxidants.|
We primarily get zinc from meat, shellfish, dairy products, nuts, kernels, and beans. Zinc from animal sources has better absorption than zinc from plant sources. Many older people have difficulty with absorbing zinc properly. Also, many types of medicine inhibit the body’s ability to utilize the nutrient. Therefore, older people can easily lack zinc even if they eat a balanced diet.
Zink is involved in approximately 300 enzyme processes and supports the powerful antioxidant called superoxide dismutase (SOD). Zinc also counteracts several pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Many zinc supplements contain inorganic zinc such as zinc sulfate and zinc oxide, which the body does not absorb all that well. On the other hand, organic sources like zinc gluconate and zinc acetate are absorbed and utilized very well by the body so make sure to study the label carefully before you make your purchase.
Fish oil contains EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), a type of omega-3 fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties. Fish oil lowers levels of CRP and the two cytokines TNF-alpha and IL-6, both of which are inflammation markers.
Fish oil based on free fatty acids has better absorption than other types. Also, make sure to choose a fish oil product that is within the threshold values for peroxide count and environmental toxins.
Melatonin is a hormone that controls our 24-hour clock and promotes healthy sleep. It is also an important antioxidant that repairs cell damage during our sleep, thereby helping to counteract undesirable inflammation. Melatonin is secreted by our pineal gland (in the center of the brain), but the production of the hormone decreases with age. This is part of the reason why many older people experience sleep problems. Lack of sleep also increases the risk of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
Why many older people lack the following anti-inflammatory compounds
Lobachevsky University. Scientists have identified the role of chronic inflammation as the cause of accelerating aging. Medical Xpress. 2020
David Furman et al. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nature Medicine. 2019
Hae Young et al. Redefining Chronic Inflammation in Aging and Age-Related Diseases: Proposal of the Senoinflammation Concept. Aging and Disease. 2019
Claudio Franceschi et al. The Continuum of Aging and Age-related Diseases: Common Mechanisms but Different Rates. Frontiers in Medicine. 2018
Roma Pahwa; Ishwarial Jialal. Chronic Inflammation. NCBI April 2018
Bruce Ames. Prolonging Healthy Aging: Longevity Vitamins and Proteins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2018
Eamon Laird, Rose Anne Kenny. Vitamin D deficiency in Ireland – implications for COVID 19. Results from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) April 2020
Andrea Rosanoff et al. Essential Nutrient Interactions: Does Low or Suboptimal Magnesium Interact with Vitamin D and/or Calcium status. Advances in Nutrition 2016
Alehagen U, et al. Cardiovascular mortality and N-Terminal-proBNP reduced after combined selenium and coenzyme Q10 supplementation. Int J Cardiol. 2012
Alehagen U et al. reduced Cardiovascular Mortality 10 Years after Supplementation with Selenium and Coenzyme Q10 for four years. Follow-Up Results of a Prospective Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled trial in Elderly Citizens. Plos One 2015
Urban Alehagen et al. Still reduced cardiovascular mortality 12 years after supplementation with selenium and coenzyme Q10 for four years. A validation of previous 10-years follow-up results of a prospective randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial in elderly. PLOS ONE 2018
Scott A et al. Zinc is a potent and specific inhibitor of IFN-ƛ3 signaling. Nature Communications, 2017
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Understanding how omega-3 dampens inflammatory reactions. ScienceDaily 2017
Rüdiger Hardeland. Melatonin and inflammation – Story of a double-edged blade. Pineal research. 2028
Pernille Lund Sund og smuk hele livet. Ny videnskab 2016
Pernille Lund. Q10 – fra helsekost til epokegørende medicin. Ny Videnskab 2014
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