Knee pain is very common as we get older, and so is systemic inflammation, but what is systemic inflammation? Systemic inflammation is the type of inflammation that you may not even know you have an issue with, because you don’t have to have a swollen joint. This type of inflammation is low grade, and it affects your whole body. It can, however, be measured by checking certain inflammatory markers. The reviewed research investigated if there was an association between increased knee pain and systemic inflammation(Stannus OP et al. 2013). The participants were 149 men and women with an average age of 63 years. Knee pain was determined using an osteoarthritis pain questionnaire at the start of the study and then five years later. Radio graphs as well as MRI were used in the examination. Several inflammatory markers were tested, highly sensitive C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-6 (IL-6).
The conclusion was that systemic inflammation is an independent predictor of worsening knee pain over 5 years. Adjustments for radio graphic osteoarthritis or structural abnormalities detected on the MRI did not make much difference regarding that association.
Does this mean that you can’t do anything about this?
No, you can do something about this, and I suggest you do, because systemic inflammation is also a risk factor for chronic disease.
Research has documented that the food you eat can be quite effective in reducing this type of inflammation.
As we get older inflammation usually increases. You don’t necessarily have to get increased inflammation as you age, but that’s what’s been observed in a lot of people. You probably know that inflammation is a risk factor for most chronic diseases, it can also make you more uncomfortable because it can contribute to pain.
It would be great if you had a way to reduce inflammation without taking any medication. In fact there are ways you can do that, and instead of side effects you even get a lot of additional benefits.
Exercise is one of the things that can reduce inflammation. That is exactly what the reviewed study investigated, by looking at data from a lot of research on this specific topic(Woods JA, et al. 2012). Data on the participants activity level, as well as measurements of several inflammatory markers, were used.
As you may have guessed, exercise was found to reduce some of these inflammatory markers, especially highly sensitive C-reactive protein (hs-CRP).
One of the studies they looked at also investigated the effects of antioxidants on inflammation. They found that the participants who took antioxidants had reduced inflammation, even if they did not exercise(Colbert LH, et al. 2004).
The logical thing would be to both exercise and take antioxidants.
The most effective antioxidant the body makes is glutathione, but the problem is that it produces less of it as we get older, when we actually need more.
You want to be happy and not feel depressed, and while we don’t understand all the reasons for depression, new research suggests that low-grade systemic inflammation may be involved(Wium-Andersen MK, et al. 2013).
This is exactly what the reviewed research investigated by measuring plasma levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker. 73,131 participants both men and women between the age of 20 and 100 years were included.
The conclusion of the study was that elevated levels of CRP are associated with increased risk for psychological distress and depression in the general population.
Maybe this looks a little bit strange to you, but the food you eat could actually be contributing to this type of inflammation, and for that reason also affect your mood.
You might think of inflammation as something you don’t have a problem with unless you have a hot and swollen joint or have recently injured yourself. Even then, it may look like a localized reaction not affecting any other part of your body.
This is far from the truth. Any type of inflammation, in any area of the body, will also affect the rest of the body.
The most dangerous form of inflammation may actually be what we call low grade inflammation because we may not have any visible signs. This means you don’t have to have a swollen joint to have an issue with it. This type of inflammation becomes systemic, which means it will affect your whole body and can be measured testing different inflammatory markers. It is also a risk factor for chronic disease, and cardiovascular disease is one of them.
The reviewed research investigated something interesting. The researchers measured several inflammatory markers: three of them were C-reactive protein, TNF-alpha and IL-6 in both heathy and non healthy obese and non obese participants(Phillips CM, Perry IJ, 2013). The results showed that the determining factor if somebody was metabolically healthy or unhealthy was the degree of inflammation even if they were obese.
This does not mean that it is a good idea to be obese, because that usually leads to increased inflammation, but somebody who is overweight may have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease if they have very low inflammatory markers.
It is very important to keep inflammation low. You can significantly lower inflammation by eating a certain way. For more information on how to lower inflammation with your diet, click here.
We have all heard that exercise is beneficial and that it should be a part of a healthy lifestyle. There are several benefits of exercise and the benefits may vary depending on what type of exercise we are talking about. The research reviewed is interesting because the investigators compared aerobic exercise with strength training and the effect these two types of training have on inflammation (Stensvold D, et al. 2012).
The participants were inactive men and women diagnosed with metabolic syndrome since the metabolic syndrome is associated with chronic low grade inflammation. All of the participants were tested for serum insulin, highly sensitive C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), IL-18, IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha. These are all inflammatory markers except the insulin. The participants were all randomized into either high intensity aerobic interval training, strength training or a control group. The exercises were carried out three times per week for 12 weeks.
The first thing that was interesting was that aerobic exercise rather than strength training reduced IL-18 by 43%. Second, only IL-18 was reduced, the other inflammatory markers did not change.
Insulin did not change in either of the groups, but both aerobic exercise and strength training reduced fat mass.
It is important to remember that not all types of exercise produce the same benefits. Since aerobic exercise and strength training provide different benefits you are better off if you do a combination of both.
Exercise does not have to take a lot of time. For example, high intensity short interval training takes very little time, but still provides the same benefits as long duration aerobic training.
Included in the program offered at Learn to Eat is an explanation of how to do high intensity short interval training, since physical activity and eating correctly are both important.