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Chronic systemic inflammation is an underlying cause of many age-related diseases. As people age, systemic inflammation can inflict devastating degenerative effects throughout the body (Ward 1995; McCarty 1999; Brod 2000). Persuasive scientific evidence exists that correcting a chronic inflammatory condition will help to prevent, or reverse, many diseases associated with aging.

Aging results in an increase of pro-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 where 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 all known to cause or contribute to the inflammatory process (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 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).

Several studies have shown 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 condition.

It is well established that elevated C-reactive protein, IL-6 and other inflammatory cytokines indicate significantly greater risks of contracting or dying from specific diseases (heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and others). One study 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).

In a study of almost 5,000 elderly people, researchers found that frail seniors were more likely to have signs of increased inflammation than their more active counterparts (Walston et al. 2002). This study showed that the frail seniors with elevated blood inflammatory markers also tended to show more clotting activity, muscle weakness, fatigue and disability than active elderly people.

An anti-inflammatory diet and supplements such as proteolytic enzymes, mineral salts, and fish oils can help to control the factors of inflammation, and reduce the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fraction of fish oil is the best documented supplement to suppress TNF-a, IL-6, IL-1(b), and IL-8 (Jeyarajah et al. 1999; James et al. 2000; Watanabe et al. 2000; Yano et al. 2000). A study on healthy humans and those with rheumatoid disease shows that fish oil suppresses these dangerous cytokines by up to 90% (James et al. 2000).
Brod SA. Unregulated inflammation shortens human functional longevity. Inflamm Res. 2000 Nov;49(11):561-70.
Brouqui P, Dumler JS, Raoult D. Immunohistologic demonstration of Coxiella burnetii in the valves of patients with Q fever endocarditis. Am J Med. 1994 Nov;97(5):451-8.
De Keyser F, Elewaut D, De Vos M, et al. Bowel inflammation and the spondyloarthropathies. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 1998 Nov;24(4):785-x.
Deon D, Ahmed S, Tai K, et al. Cross-talk between IL-1 and IL-6 signaling pathways in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts. J Immunol. 2001 Nov 1;167(9):5395-403.
Devaux B, Scholz D, Hirche A, et al. Upregulation of cell adhesion molecules and the presence of low grade inflammation in human chronic heart failure. Eur Heart J. 1997 Mar;18(3):470-9.
Invitti C. [Obesity and low-grade systemic inflammation]. Minerva Endocrinol. 2002 Sep;27(3):209-14.
James MJ, Gibson RA, Cleland LG. Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory mediator production. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;71(1 Suppl):343S-8S.
Jeyarajah DR, Kielar M, Penfield J, et al. Docosahexaenoic acid, a component of fish oil, inhibits nitric oxide production in vitro. J Surg Res. 1999 May 15;83(2):147-50.
Lee H, Liao JJ, Graeler M, et al. Lysophospholipid regulation of mononuclear phagocytes. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002 May 23;1582(1-3):175-7.
Licinio J, Wong ML. The role of inflammatory mediators in the biology of major depression: central nervous system cytokines modulate the biological substrate of depressive symptoms, regulate stress-responsive systems, and contribute to neurotoxicity and neuroprotection. Mol Psychiatry. 1999 Jul;4(4):317-27.
Lindahl B, Toss H, Siegbahn A, et al. Markers of myocardial damage and inflammation in relation to long-term mortality in unstable coronary artery disease. FRISC Study Group. Fragmin during Instability in Coronary Artery Disease. N Engl J Med. 2000 Oct 19;343(16):1139-47.
McCarty MF. Interleukin-6 as a central mediator of cardiovascular risk associated with chronic inflammation, smoking, diabetes, and visceral obesity: down-regulation with essential fatty acids, ethanol and pentoxifylline. Med Hypotheses. 1999 May;52(5):465-77.
Packard CJ, O'Reilly DS, Caslake MJ, et al. Lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 as an independent predictor of coronary heart disease. West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study Group. N Engl J Med. 2000 Oct 19;343(16):1148-55.
Rader DJ. Inflammatory markers of coronary risk. N Engl J Med. 2000 Oct 19;343(16):1179-82.
Ridker PM, Cushman M, Stampfer MJ, et al. Inflammation, aspirin, and the risk of cardiovascular disease in apparently healthy men. N Engl J Med. 1997 Apr 3;336(14):973-9.
Santoro A, Mancini E. Cardiac effects of chronic inflammation in dialysis patients. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2002;17 Suppl 8:10-5.
Sitzer M, Markus HS, Mendall MA, et al. C-reactive protein and carotid intimal medial thickness in a community population. J Cardiovasc Risk. 2002 Apr;9(2):97-103.
van der Meide PH, Schellekens H. Cytokines and the immune response. Biotherapy. 1996;8(3-4):243-9.
Ward PA. Cytokines, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases. Hosp Pract (Off Ed). 1995 May 15;30(5):35-41.
Watanabe S, Katagiri K, Onozaki K, et al. Dietary docosahexaenoic acid but not eicosapentaenoic acid suppresses lipopolysaccharide-induced interleukin-1 beta mRNA induction in mouse spleen leukocytes. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2000 Mar;62(3):147-52.
Yano M, Kishida E, Iwasaki M, et al. Docosahexaenoic acid and vitamin E can reduce human monocytic U937 cell apoptosis induced by tumor necrosis factor. J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5):1095-101.

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