Reducing the effects of inflammation

Photograph: David Murray/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

Dr Edward Bullmore (Inflammation is the new frontier in public health, Journal, 20 January) is right in saying that inflammation “seems to be everywhere”. In fact, many of the diseases of ageing have been linked to the rise in three inflammatory cytokines that all of us secrete over the age of about 65. These include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, macular degeneration, muscle loss leading to frailty, dementia and type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, those living into their late 90s and longer secrete an anti-inflammatory cytokine. So these individuals are able to do naturally what Bullmore wants to do with drugs.

But I’d like to suggest a further way of reducing the effect of inflammatory cytokines. A wide body of published research details the anti-inflammatory effects of various foods. These include ginger and curcumin (from turmeric), green tea, omega 3 fatty acid (from oily fish and flaxseed), resveratrol (from grapes, berries, peanuts and red wine) and punicalagin (from pomegranate). These natural anti-inflammatory substances are also available as food supplements.

Bullmore mentioned that depression could also be treated by anti-inflammatory drugs that crossed the blood-brain barrier. This is interesting because there is a body of research that indicates curcumin crosses the blood-brain barrier and can be effective in depression.
Dr Colin Sutherland
Kendal, Cumbria

• I think Edward Bullmore’s article overstates the case for depression being linked medically to inflammation. Last year, a bout of arthritis in my right knee left me barely able to walk for a month. I was mostly confined to my room, unable to sleep because of the pain, and gave up all healthy outdoor activities. Was I depressed? You bet! Strangely, the depression lifted magically once the pain subsided and I was mobile again.
John O’Dwyer
Steeple Claydon, Buckinghamshire

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