Pick a disease. Any disease. You’ll quickly discover that it involves inflammation as a cause, a promoter of the disease process or a way of ramping up symptoms.
Often misunderstood, inflammation does have an upside. It’s part of our immune system’s response to infection, and without inflammation we would die after the most minor infection. Inflammation also stimulates the healing process after we suffer an injury, whether a cut on the thumb or a broken bone.
But chronic inflammation is like the dark side of the force. It eats away at our tissues and increases pain. This type of inflammation damages the heart, breaks down cartilage in the joints and stimulates the growth of cancer. It’s what makes the common cold and allergies feel so awful. And chronic low-grade inflammation is even worse because of its silent damage.
Even the aging process seems related, at least in part, to uncontrolled inflammation. According to recent research, human beings have more inflammation-regulating genes compared with dogs, cats and most other animals, which is why we humans have longer lifespans than almost every other species. These genes work by protecting against free radical damage, thereby reducing inflammation and cellular aging.
 Schwarz F, Pearce OMT, Wang X, et al. Siglec receptors impact mammalian lifespan by modulating oxidative stress. eLife, 2015;4:e06184
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