Is Chronic Inflammation Causing Us to Age Faster?

By Chris Centeno, MD /

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combat chronic inflammation and aging

A couple of weeks ago, I covered a study on aging that gave us a glimpse into one possible reason energy production in our cells tends to decrease as we get older. The answer was found in our mitochondria, the power supply of our cells. As a particular protein level declines, it may be leading to mitochondrial burnout and, therefore, the effects of aging.

Now, a new study out just this past week, suggests another contributor to the effects of aging may be the decrease of a molecule that occurs naturally in our cells called nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) due to chronic inflammation as we age. The obvious question is, is this process inevitable, or are there things we can do to combat chronic inflammation?

What Is NMN?

NMN is a precursor of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). As we age, NAD levels decline, causing lowered energy levels, slowed metabolism, and many other issues. NMN boosts the production of NAD, and this not only keeps our mitochondria healthy but other physiological processes, such as eye function, immune function, body weight, and much more, benefit from it. NMN is found naturally in many foods, such as broccoli, avocado, and tomatoes, though it would be difficult to eat enough of these to fully replenish the declining NMN levels seen in the aging body.

The NMN Study

In the new study, researchers looked at three groups of mice over a period of one year. The first group was given NMN in high doses. The second group was given NMN in small doses. And the third group was the control group, meaning it was not given NMN. They quickly discovered that the NMN entered the bloodstream within minutes of consumption (supplemented via the drinking water) where it converted to NAD. The researchers looked at many different physiologic functions of each mouse every three months. The findings in the older mice were remarkable as shown below:

  • Body weight and gene expression decreased in the NMN group and increased in the control group.
  • Eye function, bone density, immune function, insulin sensitivity, lipid metabolism, and energy metabolism increased in the NMN group and decreased in the control group.

The study states, “Remarkably, NMN effectively mitigates the age-associated physiological decline in mice…These effects of NMN highlight the preventive and therapeutic potential of NAD+ intermediates [referring to the NMN in this case] as effective anti-aging interventions in humans.” So in all of these physiologic functions, which are associated with aging, the older mice in the NMN group remained healthier and physiologically younger than their control-group counterparts. And the researchers believe there is the potential for a similar impact on humans, so human studies are sure to follow.

Chronic Inflammation and the Decrease in NMN

So what causes this decrease in NMN and, therefore, NAD? Is it a hardwired effect of aging? One of the scientists involved in the study thinks that the increase in inflammation that happens with aging reduces the body’s ability to make NMN and, by extension, NAD. Inflammation seems to be the common denominator in so many health-related issues today. And now we’re seeing signs that chronic inflammation may be affecting our bodies all the way down to the mitochondrial level in our cells and, therefore, speeding up the effects of aging.

How to Combat Chronic Inflammation as We Age

 Listed below are ways to combat chronic inflammation, and keeping inflammation at bay may help us continue to produce higher and healthier levels of NMN as we age.

  1. Recognize that you have chronic inflammation (if you aren’t doing 2–5 below, you likely have an inflammation issue)
  2. Keep your weight under control
  3. Remove sugar, inflammatory oils, refined foods, and high-glycemic foods from your diet
  4. Exercise frequently
  5. Add anti-inflammatory supplements (glucosamine and chondroitin, fish oil, curcumin, resveratrol, etc.)

The upshot? We continue to see studies on aging that lead back to the health of the mitochondria in our cells. Whether it’s a decline in a protein, such as carbonic anhydrase, or a molecule, such as NMN, our mitochondria can’t be the energy powerhouses they are designed to be when they are losing fuel. One way we may be able to conserve this mitochondria fuel and stop intentionally contributing to the effects of our aging is to combat chronic inflammation. So clean up your lifestyle to prevent running out of cell fuel!

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14 thoughts on “Is Chronic Inflammation Causing Us to Age Faster?

  1. Tonya Pixley

    My girlfriend turned me onto Protandim, curious your thoughts as it relates to today’s blog?

    http://www.protandim.com/science/

    1. Chris Centeno Post author

      Tonya, looked at that page. Didn’t see any human data, just a lab-based study and mouse research, so unsure…

  2. Ed morelos

    All this information is well appreciated and important for us and I thank you for that!

  3. Rod Sellers

    Thank you, chronic inflammation is a constant problem for myself.
    On recommendations from one of your doctors I tried to stop using Voltarin and drastically increased my intake of natural antiinflamatories and supplements.
    Unfortunately within 2 to 3 weeks I was seized up like a rusted hinge and barely moving and in great discomfort. Now back on Voltarin I have reduced my Voltarin doseage from 75m to 50m / day now and after 8 weeks feel the natural antiinflamatories etc. may be starting to help, but fear stopping the Voltarin completely will once again stop me cold. I am very active.
    Any suggestions are welcome.
    Thank you Rod

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Rod,
      Here is a plan to get off NSAIDS: http://www.regenexx.com/blog/nsaid-addict-can/ Of course they are general suggestions that work for most. Medical history is a big factor and it sounds like it would be a good idea for you to work directly with your Regenexx Physician on this project.

      1. Jayne

        Jayne again….what I forgot to mention was that I started eating gluten free for other reasons. Having the inflammation calm down was unexpected and a welcomed surprise.

        1. Regenexx Team Post author

          Jayne,

          Gluten issues for those who are truly sensitive are very, very real. Calming down inflammation was a wonderful result! Congrats!

  4. Jayne

    Hi,
    A couple of months ago I started eating a gluten free diet. I eased into it…have cheated a bit here and there and this is what I noticed after the first month: the swelling in my ankles went away completely, I’m not so achy in the morning, haven’t had a Rheumatoid arthritis flare up at all, no gout either. I only have a headache when I slip and have something with gluten. I feel so much better that I’m learning how to bake gluten free bread. I think it’s all because of removing the gluten….Just sayin’ .

  5. Joe Bateson

    You didn’t discuss whether there was a dose-response effect. Did the mice receiving the higher doses of NMN show more improvement than the lower dosed mice?

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Joe,

      The study does not say…. http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(16)30495-8

  6. Miki14

    Sugar has a lower glycemic index than starch. Fructose has one of the lowest GI. Fruits and juices have a GI around 50 +/- 10, most starches apart from high fiber foods are around 100. Your claim contradicts the data and my observation, replacing starches with fruit lowers inflammation (assumed low consumption of vegetable oils).

    1. Chris Centeno Post author

      Miki, whatever works for you is fine. There are dramatic genetic differences between us all. For me, just downing orange juice would whack my blood sugar out for a day or more. So if you have a better insulin control system, then viewing the glycemic index this way may work. However, I know this wouldn’t work for the majority of the patients who I have advised in these matters.

  7. Dave Smith

    So when will a NMN supplement be available for our use? Is there any way to achieve a meaningful level naturally?
    I’m working on my Regenexx candidacy now. Up to this point I’ve been focused on restoring my alignment with the Egoscue Method but MRI’s on my hips report severe OA and I’m 64 a YOM. I’m doing all I can in the gym (weights and conditioning) and supplements (high Omega, G/C, etc.) but my cartilage needs some help to stop the slide. NMN sounds like a good possibility.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Dave,
      Testing NAD+ with stem cells is on the list of things to test, but behind more pressing issues. Other than treatment, for people looking to improve joint health and for use by our patients before and after treatment, we created the Advanced Stem Cell Support formula based on a year’s worth of our own lab testing that supports stem cells and chondrogenesis. Does it replace treatment, No. Is it the best thing we know based on real experimental data, yes. Please see: https://regenexx.com/regenexx-advanced-stem-cell-support-formula/

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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