Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Covid-19 – seemingly unrelated conditions, but the root cause of this is inflammation.
It is becoming the key factor in many diseases, and a process we need to understand better if we are to reduce our risk of everything from dementia to blocked arteries.
It has also been identified as a major driver of Covid-19’s fatal march, and explains why the elderly and those with lifestyle-related illnesses are particularly at risk.
Inflammation is a clue to what lies behind the high number of coronavirus deaths in Britain – 32,065, compared to 30,560 in Italy and 26,744 in Spain, reflecting the serious extent of the underlying chronic diseases and justifying our new label as the sickest population in Europe.
But doctors hope that the knowledge gained from attacking Covid-19 will help us better understand inflammatory processes and come up with new approaches to the chronic diseases that afflict millions of people.
Information now shows that inflammation is responsible for health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and Covid-19. (Stock Image)
Inflammation is a sign of the body’s natural response to infection. When the immune system is mobilized, the wave of activity of the defensive cells causes byproducts such as heat and redness of the skin, or fever when the whole system is involved.
But we now know that obesity and chronic diseases also trigger inflammation.
Overweight people – almost two in three Britons belong to this group – have been found to have higher levels of inflammatory messenger molecules called cytokines, which interfere with and damage normal cellular functions.
A major research journal, published in 2016 by the American Society for Nutrition, concluded that obesity and the health problems associated with it – such as high blood pressure, increased blood sugar, and fat belly – have a “substantial impact” on the health of the immune system and defense against disease.
This effect is visible in the response of people to vaccines.
A review of nearly 90 studies – in the 2015 Vaccine review – found that those with a body mass index (BMI) above 30 do not produce antibody cells in response to vaccination against infectious diseases such as the flu , tetanus and hepatitis because their immunity systems are already not working properly.
As a result, these people are not protected by vaccines.
Millions of Britons live with conditions related to inflammation.
Although obesity is the main cause of this and other chronic health problems – usually type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which also damage the body’s maintenance systems, including immunity – other diseases where inflammation is involved include non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, where stored fat clogs the liver (this affects about one in three adults) and dementia, which is often a complication of heart disease and diabetes.
Overweight people have been shown to have higher levels of inflammatory messenger molecules called cytokines. (Stock Image)
INFLAMMATION AND VIRUSES
The inflammation triggered by the ongoing fight against all of these chronic diseases – one in three Britons would suffer from more than one of these diseases simultaneously – means that those affected struggle to maintain their vital functions even before contact with Covid-19, which then triggers an extra-defensive inflammatory response.
As highlighted in a review published last week in the journal Nature, “an excessive inflammatory response. . . is considered a major cause of disease severity and death in patients with Covid-19 ‘.
Covid-19 is a new infection and an understanding of how it works is emerging, but many doctors are now seeing the devastating number of deaths in the UK as a red flag for chronic disease and the underlying problem underlying inflammation.
Dr. Duane Mellor, Lecturer at Aston University and diabetes specialist, explains that the epidemic of fatty liver disease in Britain is caused by excess energy from a diet low in sugar stored under form of fat in the liver and a lack of access to the outside space for people to exercise.
He is concerned that bored, locked-in adults will gain weight by drinking extra alcohol – a hidden source of sugar – and by eating more snacks.
“After that, we have to think carefully about how to make our country healthy for all of us,” he told Good Health – especially in anticipation of a likely second wave of Covid-19 in the fall.
Government statistics show that more than 90% of Covid’s deaths have occurred in people over the age of 60, with three-quarters among obese people and members of ethnic minorities being overrepresented among deaths.
Public Health England (PHE) insists that the risk factors for Covid-19 are still unknown and has announced a review of the victim’s health records to establish what they are.
“A precise understanding of how diseases affect different groups of people is really important,” said Professor Kevin Fenton, regional director of public health at PHE and NHS London.
“Detailed and detailed work is underway so that we can better understand this and explore the possible reasons for any disparity.” “
The results of the exam are expected in late May.
In the meantime, research released last week by a team at Oxford University, which analyzed the health records of 17.4 million people, calculated that the most severely overweight are three times more likely to die from coronavirus.
It may be significant that, while Italy and Spain have more elderly people, only 12% and 18% of their respective populations are severely obese, compared to almost 30% in Britain.
If you don’t have to move around during lockdown, go to sleep when you are tired and wake up naturally.
You’ll sleep better and boost your immunity, says sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley.
Others are undoubtedly what is causing the damage to the health of our population and say that we can no longer turn a blind eye to the obesity epidemic.
“After that, we need a public health campaign to raise awareness that obesity is a major underlying factor,” said Dr. David Haslam, president of the National Obesity Forum.
“It is closely linked to all the other diseases that make people worse off when they are affected by the virus: high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, etc. “
AND THERE IS A LINK AGAINST CANCER
The immune system has two lines of defense: innate immunity, which includes the “natural killer” and other types of cells that are looking for bacteria, viruses, or fungi that may seem foreign; and the adaptive or acquired immune system.
This second type of defense is a set of more specialized cells, unique to each of us, which has grown over our lifetime to recognize and destroy any invaders who have attempted to attack our bodies in the past.
Covid-19 did not appear until the end of last year, so the human immune system has never been exposed to it and has no prepared defense.
Therefore, our bodies must rely on innate immunity – a natural killer and so-called T cells, as well as other types of defense cells.
The problem is that innate immunity starts to deteriorate from around the age of 50 and goes down sharply from the age of 70.
Adaptive immunity also begins to fail, with specialized antibody cells “forgetting” to recognize the invaders they are supposed to protect against.
This dysfunction occurs even in otherwise healthy older adults, and the immune system tries to compensate for the deficit by overproducing cytokines, which buzz in search of problems – but in doing so, cause inflammation.
Think before you reach a cookie
By Fiona MacRae
Feasting on fast food triggers inflammation in the body, warn German researchers.
They say foods high in fat and sugar and low in fiber, such as pizza, burgers and fries, can disrupt the immune system, making it act like it is fighting an infection.
In addition, the immune system remains on high alert after eating these foods and will react even more aggressively to unhealthy foods in the future, said Dr. Eicke Latz, a researcher at the University of Bonn.
These results, reported in the journal Cell in 2018, come from a study on mice, whose food was exchanged for a “fast food” version.
Dr. Latz believes the findings may be relevant to human health, helping to explain heart disease and type 2 diabetes, both of which are linked to poor diet and inflammation.
British experts say “ultra-processed foods”, containing artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives, can fuel inflammation.
This would include soft drinks, ice cream, cookies, sweet cereal and chicken nuggets, as well as some low-fat spreads, protein bars and low-fat flavored yogurts.
Duane Mellor, registered dietitian and lecturer at Aston University’s medical school, said this type of food can leave the body struggling to convert extra calories cleanly into energy, generating high levels of free radicals – molecules that would be involved in triggering inflammation.
He suggests thinking before looking for a cookie.
If you’re bored, try brewing a cup of tea instead. And if you feel like you can’t do without instant noodles, add fresh or frozen vegetables.
In addition to being nutritious, they will help reduce your calorie intake.
In those who have an existing chronic disease, this inflammation is amplified.
Now these chains of defective cells and immune molecules are linked to cancer.
“Being healthy is essential to reducing the risk of cancer,” said Kate Allen, spokesperson for the World Cancer Research Fund.
“Fifteen of the most common cancers, including breast, prostate and colon, are more common in overweight people due to this chronic inflammation. “
CAN BOOSTERS HELP BATTLE IT?
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which caused panic almost 40 years ago when he became a new killer, uses the exact same route as Covid-19. But when HIV shuts down the immune system, Covid sends him into a chaotic overwork.
There is still no HIV vaccine, but it can be well controlled by drug cocktails.
Many experts believe this is the way to approach Covid-19.
Various treatments are being explored, including the famous morning sickness medication thalidomide, which has caused tragic damage to thousands of babies, but could now be used to help reset the immune system.
Nicotine also appeared as a candidate. Separated from the carcinogenic tar of tobacco, it has proven to be very effective in absorbing this storm of cytokines.
“The number of scientists working on this problem worldwide is unprecedented,” said Anthony Grosso, chief scientist of the pharmaceutical company Accord and former chief pharmacist at University College Hospital, London.
His company is examining 187 drug molecules to see what could be the most promising immune stimulants.
“Having so many brains watching this means that we will start to better understand the interaction between different factors, which will contribute to a better understanding of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases and their impact on the immune system, “he says.
“We think the best way to solve this problem is to change the response of the immune system. “
A healthier immune system reaction would mean a reduction in inflammation levels.
Cut back on processed foods, exercise and sleep well are the lifestyle approaches to achieve this.
But there are other possible modifiers of the immune system, including those mentioned above, as well as old polio and tuberculosis vaccines.
Research published in 2016 by the American Society for Nutrition concluded that obesity and related health conditions such as high blood pressure, increased blood sugar and belly fat have a “substantial impact On the health of the immune system. (Stock Image)
In the United States, Robert Gallo, co-founder of the Global Virus Network and one of the first discoverers of HIV, plans to test whether the polio vaccine can protect healthcare workers from Covid-19.
It is based on the fact that vaccines generally strengthen the immune system beyond their immediate effect on the disease they target.
Others have focused on BCG, the tuberculosis vaccine given regularly to British adolescents between 1953 and 2005, which has also been shown to significantly reduce susceptibility to colds and flu. Countries using BCG have had lower Covid-19 mortality rates.
In Britain, researcher, Professor Angus Dalgleish, of St George’s, University of London, is seeking support for the use of an updated BCG style vaccine called IMM101, which has been used on more than 3000 people as anti-cancer treatment.
This follows patient reports of cold and flu immunity as a side effect.
How the skin helps you stay healthy
The skin sends its own signals to the immune system in the event of an infection. (Stock Image)
The skin is the largest organ in the body – and now scientists are discovering that it plays a key role in our immunity.
It’s not just because the skin is a physical barrier. It also sends signals specific to the immune system about infection attacks, using messenger cells that scientists once thought were only found inside the body.
Now they know that these delicate signaling mechanisms are also found in the skin. But they can decline, causing inflammation – an accumulation of inflammatory molecules that causes skin problems such as dryness, pain, redness or flaking, and reduced immunity to infections.
This inflammation or “inflammatory aging” of the skin is closely associated with aging (plus sun damage and environmental stress, such as pollution) and the entire immune system (especially in people with diabetes ).
The process happens at the same time as our “personalized” immunity (the so-called adaptive immune system, with its library of antibodies and other structures that we each build over a lifetime of exposure to invasive infections) begins to fail with age.
To compensate, the innate immune system – which attacks any foreign cell – begins to overreact, producing additional amounts of “natural killer” cells and cytokines in the skin, causing inflammation.
Meanwhile, there is also a reduction in the levels of specialized immune agents found in the skin called Langerhans cells.
“We know that their number decreases, then decreases sharply at 70 years,” explains Suzanne Pilkington, researcher at the Center of dermatology of the University of Manchester.
In another affront to aging, ineffective or non-functioning immune system cells called T cells hang around aging skin and are not replaced.
These cells are said to be part of our adaptive immune system that preserves the memory of invading bacteria, viruses or fungi that have been fought in the past, so that the body can be alerted to the need to mobilize defenses.
But they increasingly fail to recognize enemy invaders, allowing them to enter, and also occupy space that would otherwise be available for new cells capable of forming new “memories.”
T cells also contribute to the accumulation of inflammation.
“Once you get a lot of these inflammatory molecules, you seem to lose more natural immunity, so you’re more vulnerable to skin infections,” says Dr. Pilkington.
“This drop in skin immunity appears to coincide with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and diabetes that control the aging system.”
Damage or aging processes affecting skin immunity means that mast cells, which are part of the armory, also mysteriously redistribute alongside nerve fibers, as part of a mechanism believed to trigger chronic itching.
This little-discussed byproduct of aging causes misery and sleepless nights for many seniors, even those without diabetes and other chronic illnesses.