Unhealthy Aging and Chronic Inflammation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Tasnime Akbaraly  PhD
Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale
Montpellier, France

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Akbaraly: The aim of this study was to examine the association between chronic inflammation and a range of aging phenotypes, assessed approximately 10 years later in a large British population of men and women  -The Whitehall II Study-. As inflammation characterises a wide range of pathological processes, we considered several aging phenotypes, including cardiovascular disease (fatal and non-fatal), non-cardiovascular mortality and successful aging which encompasses optimal functioning across different physical, mental, and cognitive domains

We found that chronic inflammation characterized by high levels of interleukin-6 (>2 pg/mL) twice over the 5-year exposure period nearly halved the odds of successful aging after 10–years of follow-up compared to maintaining low levels of interleukin-6 (<1pg/mL twice over the exposure period). Chronic inflammation was also associated with increased odds of future cardiovascular disease and non-cardiovascular mortality in a dose-response fashion. These associations were found to be independent of socio-economic factors, health behaviours (smoking, physical activity), and conditions such as obesity as well as the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and acute inflammation.

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Akbaraly: Our study indicates that high interleukin-6 levels at baseline were inversely associated with most of the components that characterise successful aging; good cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal functioning, good mental well-being and the absence of diabetes and disability. Exceptions were components related to good cognitive function and cancer.

Regarding cognition, a more robust association with inflammation was expected according to available epidemiological literature which provides support for an inflammation-cognitive decline relationship.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Akbaraly:

Clinicians: The present results shed new light on the importance of assessing long-term chronic inflammation in geriatric clinical practice to target individuals at risk to develop unhealthy aging.

Patients:  To promote ideal health our study suggests managing long-term chronic inflammation.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Akbaraly:

1.       Our analyses have to be replicated in other population and other countries to extend the generalisability of the present finding.

2.       We reported that the predictive ability of the aging phenotype is significantly better when inflammation is assessed with measures repeated at two time points rather than one, we recommend to assess chronic inflammation using multiple assessments of inflammatory markers to be able to distinct the short (acute) and long-term (chronic) impact of the inflammatory process on disease outcomes.


Chronic inflammation as a determinant of future aging phenotypes

Tasnime N. Akbaraly, Mark Hamer, Jane E. Ferrie, Gordon Lowe, G. David Batty, Gareth Hagger-Johnson, Archana Singh-Manoux, Martin J. Shipley, and Mika Kävimäki

CMAJ cmaj.122072; published ahead of print September 16, 2013, doi:10.1503/cmaj.122072