Inflammation, Longevity, and Healthy AgingPosted on Thursday, June, 28th, 2012 by in Aging | Exercise | Immune Homeostasis (Immune Balance) | Inflammation | Nutrition
The journal of the American Geriatrics Society, just released a study of older women suggesting that women, and we assume men as well, add years of healthy living by staying active and increasing their consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Women between the ages of 70 to 79 years were followed for a five-year period. Investigators monitored the amount of physical activity they reported, and their carotenoid blood levels. [Carotenoids are a class of pigmented, phyto [plant] nutrients found in the yellow, orange, and plants. Blood levels of carotenoids are associated with the quantity of vegetables and fruits consumed. The more fruit and veggies consumed, the higher the levels of carotenoids in the bloodstream.]
In the study, women that were most physically active and consumed large amounts of fruits and vegetables, were eight times more likely to be alive after the study’s five years of follow-up, compared to women who were not active, and did not eat many fruits and vegetables.
Exercise increases survival times
More than half of the 713 participants (53%) did no exercise, 21% were moderately active, and the 26% were very active. The active women engaged in twice the amount of activity as did women who were not active. Active woman reported that they walked, or were involved in strength training, bowling, dancing, household, or outdoor chores. Physical activity resulted in active woman experiencing five-year death rates 71% lower than those of the least active women.
Fruits and vegetable consumption increases survival times
During the five-year follow-up period, women who consumed the most fruits and vegetables, and had the highest blood levels of carotenoids, were 46 percent less likely to die than woman that ate fewer fruits and vegetables. Blood carotenoid levels were 12% higher in the women who survived, compared to blood samples taken from women that would die earlier.
This study supports previous results demonstrating that eating more vegetables and fruits, and consuming moderate amounts of wine products, which also contain phytonutrients, is linked to people living longer.
Down-regulation of inflammation: A probable reason for the reported results.
Most scientists have only vague ideas as to why exercise, and heightened consumption of fruits and vegetables should make a difference in longevity. However, decades of literature reviews, and successful counseling of individuals in the importance of balancing immune system inflammation, make it evident to me, that exercise and healthy food consumption helps the body limit run-away inflammatory responses, and therefore helps the body balance its natural levels of inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s protective response to infection, cancer cell growth, and injury. However, when inflammatory responses are not controlled, inflammation ends up doing more harm than good, and becomes the origin of most illnesses.
It has been documented that unhealthy aging is accompanied by excessive inflammation with increases in cytokines that cause inflammation, and inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP).
But the body expends a great deal of energy to naturally control inflammatory responses, and return to immune homeostasis, immune balance. So for example, moderate exercise lowers inflammation.
Every time muscle contraction occurs, potent anti-inflammatory cytokines are released. Therefore, as the women in this study were physically active, their bodies were naturally reducing the amount of inflammation in their bodies.
As to the contribution of fruits and vegetables in lowering inflammation, hundreds of studies support the fact that carotenoids affect cytokines, the immune system messengers that modulate inflammation.
There are many ways to help the body modulate immune system-generated inflammatory responses, but simple lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, are two simple steps to consider for a healthier, longer, and more active life.