Treating Chronic Inflammation May Reduce Illness, Save Lives
Early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of severe chronic inflammation may reduce the risk of chronic disease and death worldwide, according to an international team of scientists from 22 institutions.
Inflammation is a naturally occurring immune response that helps the body fight illness and infection. When inflammation is chronic, however, it increases the risk of developing a variety of conditions, including cancer, diabetes, mental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.
The group of experts, from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the National Institutes of Health, Stanford University, Harvard Medical School, Columbia University Medical Center and University College London, point to inflammation-related diseases as the cause of 50 percent of all deaths worldwide.
Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, the authors describe how persistent and severe inflammation in the body plays a key role in heart disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders.
“It’s also important to recognize that inflammation is a contributor not just to physical health problems, but also mental health problems such as anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, self-harm and suicide,” said senior author Dr. George Slavich, director of the UCLA Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research.
“This is a substantial public health crisis.”
According to the authors, research should focus on identifying ways to better diagnose and treat severe chronic inflammation. Doing so may not only extend life, but also help reduce chronic disease worldwide and improve health.
Slavich said it is important to make people aware of the risk factors for chronic inflammation, which include obesity, physical inactivity, social isolation, chronic stress and inadequate or poor sleep.
“Chronic inflammation is influenced by many social, environmental and lifestyle factors,” said Slavich, who is also a research scientist at the Norman Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA. “If we make people aware of these risk factors, our hope is that individuals will reduce the factors that apply to them.”
Future research should focus on identifying new biomarkers or substances in the body that will allow doctors to screen for and better diagnose and treat severe chronic inflammation, he said.
Currently, only a few biomarkers are known to indicate inflammation, such as elevated levels of C-reactive protein, a protein found in blood plasma. Slavich said there are potentially hundreds of other substances in the body’s immune system that may point to chronic inflammation, but they have yet to be identified.
Pedersen, T. (2019). Treating Chronic Inflammation May Reduce Illness, Save Lives. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 3, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2019/12/19/treating-chronic-inflammation-may-reduce-illness-save-lives/152424.html