Gotta Run: Reducing chronic body inflammation

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 19, 2022

A couple weeks ago, I was contacted by the University of North Carolina HRC lab in the Kannapolis Research Campus. I have been on their list for eight years and have enjoyed participating in quite a few studies. All of them are performance research studies, often centering on how a certain product or supplement affects exercise or specific wellness improvement.

This particular study involved using a certain type of fish oil supplement to decrease body inflammation, the culprit with a long list of wellness issues. A researcher called and asked 14 questions, qualifying me for a blood draw to see what my body inflammation level actually is. I did the blood draw and after a couple of days was notified that I had been booted from the study. The reason — my level of inflammation was very low. That’s good news! I was a little disappointed not to get $475 promised for completing the study. That is one beach trip that won’t happen.

There are two types of inflammation in the body. Acute inflammation is an important part of our immune response. It is the body’s way of healing itself after an injury, repairing damaged tissue, and defending itself against pathogens. In this way, inflammation is beneficial.

Having chronic inflammation, the bad inflammation, in the body has been listed as a major cause for lots of problems. Many of the reasons that we might have inflammation are similar to why we might have LDL (bad) cholesterol issues. Some of the causes for having chronic inflammation include:

  • Physical inactivity: An anti-inflammatory chemical process occurs in the bloodstream when your muscles are in motion. People who don’t meet the minimum activity recommendations for optimal health (about half of all American adults) have an increased risk of age-related diseases.
  • Obesity: Fat tissue, especially visceral fat (a deep layer of fat around the abdominal organs), actually produces pro-inflammatory chemicals.
  • Diet: Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat, and refined sugar are associated with increased inflammation, especially in overweight people. Processed foods are a culprit here.
  • Smoking: Smoking cigarettes lowers the production of anti-inflammatory molecules and increases inflammation.
  • Low sex hormones: Sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone suppress inflammation. Lower levels of these hormones, common in advanced age, increase the risk of inflammatory diseases.
  • Stress: Psychological stress is associated with increased inflammation.
  • Sleep disorders: People with irregular sleep schedules have more markers of inflammation than people who get a regular eight hours a night. I can’t remember the time I got eight hours of sleep.
  • Age: Research shows that chronic inflammation gets worse as we age.

Chronic inflammation is one of several contributing factors in disease onset and progression. So far, the strongest link between chronic inflammation and disease has been seen in type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Other conditions associated with chronic inflammation include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Kidney disease
  • Various types of cancer
  • Depression
  • Neurodegenerative disorders (like Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Osteoporosis
  • Fatty liver disease

Chronic inflammation often progresses quietly, with few independent symptoms. Despite its subtlety, chronic inflammation represents a major threat to the health and longevity of a large population of individuals.

Some of this information came from I’m challenging myself and my new doctor to prove that I can lower my LDL cholesterol without taking a pill to do it. I’ve been intrigued to find out that the body really wants me to win the challenge and the double positive will be that my chronic inflammation shouldn’t become a problem either.

Next Saturday’s local race is the Ninth Annual Will Run for Food 5K and Fun Run. Look for it and other upcoming events at