The secret of the centenarians? Being able to fight inflammation! Inflammation, in fact, if on the one hand it is beneficial as it represents our defense against aggression, be it viruses, bacteria, fungi, toxins or tumors, on the other it can represent a threat. The problem is when the inflammation never goes out but works continuously, perhaps remaining at low levels, but always present. Especially as the years go by, the inflammation increases, we talk about inflammaging, a physiological condition given by the continuous stimulation of the immune system to the various pathogens with which we come into contact over the course of our life but also by the senescent cells that, as we age, lose their functions and produce pro-inflammatory substances. Inflammaging is a chronic inflammation caused by aging, which accelerates aging itself (Peladic et al, Nutrients, 2021).
A long and healthy life, the secret of the centenarians
So is there nothing to be done against inflammaging? No, instead, we can do a lot. Of course, we cannot avoid the passing of time and age-related inflammation but we can counteract it. In fact, research has observed that in the centenarians, inflammation is present but is counterbalanced by anti-inflammatory substances (Peladic et al, Nutrients, 2021). Indeed, health is all about the balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory substances. An imbalance between the two forces at play, with an advantage for inflammation, can pave the way for type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cardiovascular problems, sarcopenia, depression and tumors as well as more visible effects such as an acceleration in the appearance of wrinkles (Haque et al, J Drugs Dermatol, 2021). Not only that, now many studies are dedicated to analyzing the consequences of the new coronavirus infection. Well, what has emerged is that in elderly people with existing and unbalanced chronic inflammation, the viral infection could favor protein aggregation and pave the way for a greater risk of neurodegenerative diseases (Domingues et al, Aging, 2020). Therefore, it is important to combat inflammation and, above all, to act immediately to create one's health over the years.
Probiotics and prebiotics
As evidenced by recent scientific research, intestinal health contributes to inflammaging. Incorrect and not very varied diet, age and some drugs can weaken the intestinal barrier and compromise the microbiota. In this way, pro-inflammatory substances are released into the bloodstream, fueling inflammation. Therefore, acting by strengthening the intestinal microbiota also helps to counteract inflammaging. The intake of probiotics, which are the good bacteria of the microbiota, has been shown to support intestinal health, protecting the integrity of the mucous membranes and strengthening the defenses. Regarding the action on inflammation, even if the researches have shown to be very heterogeneous and not always in accordance because of the limitations with which they have been carried out, it has been observed, in general, that the intake of probiotics, even at low dosages, reduced circulating pro-inflammatory substances by increasing some cytokines with anti-inflammatory action, such as gamma interferon (Peladic et al, Nutrients, 2021). And that's not all. Prebiotics, which are the nourishment of the microbiota, are able to support good intestinal bacteria, promoting their development and proliferation (Losappio et al, Nutrients, 2021). Prebiotics, which occur naturally in leeks, onions, asparagus, garlic, oats and Jerusalem artichokes, have been shown to avoid excessive production of pro-inflammatory substances (Losappio et al, Nutrients, 2021 - Carlson et al, Curr Dev Nutr, 2018) .
Diet and lifestyle
The Mediterranean diet, rich in fatty acids, derived from fish, nuts and extra virgin olive oil, whole grains and fiber from legumes, fruits and vegetables and characterized by a low consumption of meat, milk and dairy products and saturated fats, has been shown to counteract inflammaging by providing valuable anti-inflammatory substances. Indeed, the Mediterranean diet can be said to even move the biological hands backwards, postponing the moment when inflammation will prevail (Martucci et al, Nutr Rev, 2017). Instead, the Western-style diet, rich in saturated fats, refined products and red meat, has been shown to act by altering the microbiota and increasing inflammation (Losappio et al, Nutrients, 2021). Not only that, even a sedentary lifestyle with little space for moderate physical activity opens the way to inflammaging.
Adequate levels of vitamin D in the blood are protective and capable of fighting inflammation. In fact, vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties, modulates the immune system and avoids an excessive production of pro-inflammatory substances (Ticinesi et al, Nutrients, 2016). Therefore, exposure to the sun, always with due precautions and avoiding the central hours of the day, and a varied diet that also includes mushrooms, fish such as anchovies, sea bass and mackerel, eggs and cheeses such as stracchino are a very good choice to guarantee to our body the precious vitamin D.