Longevity Articles

How Inflammaging Impacts Longevity and What to Eat to Lower It

How Inflammaging Impacts Longevity and What to Eat to Lower It

Just about every age-related condition of poor health stems, in part, from elevated inflammatory states in the body—so much so that the term “inflammaging” has been coined to describe the commonly seen condition in aging adults. But what exactly is inflammaging, what impact does it have on our bodies, and how can we fight it to support healthy aging and longevity? Let’s find out.

 What Is Inflammaging?  

Inflammaging is an aptly named portmanteau term for the chronic, low-grade inflammatory state that often occurs in aging adults—in fact, this elevated inflammatory response is now even considered a hallmark of aging. This concept suggests that as we age, our immune systems increase the production of inflammatory molecules, even without infection or injury. Inflammaging is believed to contribute to a variety of age-related conditions and can be influenced by a number of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, such as diet, stress, and exposure to toxins. 

However, it's important to note that not all inflammatory responses are bad. The inflammatory response is an essential component of healing and repair—without it, scrapes and sprains would never heal, and a simple paper cut could turn into a festering infection. The difference between good and bad inflammatory states comes down to whether it’s acute or chronic. 

Acute inflammatory states are the localized and short-lived type that saves us from those otherwise deadly paper cuts, while chronic inflammatory states are systemic and lingering. When the body is chronically inflamed, a steady but persistent flow of pro-inflammatory immune cells and signaling molecules called cytokines contributes to aging and disease. The most well-known and commonly studied pro-inflammatory molecules include C-reactive protein, IFN-γ, TNF-alpha, and interleukins 1 and 6 (IL-1, IL-6). 

Whereas acute forms are visible—think swelling and redness—chronic inflammatory states are often invisible and internal, surrounding the organs and tissues and eventually causing them to become dysfunctional. 

Inflammaging and Longevity: What’s the Link?

From increased oxidative stress to impaired immunity to metabolic dysfunction, chronic low-grade inflammatory states can significantly impact both lifespan and healthspan—the duration of life lived in good health, free from disease. 

Cellular Aging

Inflammaging and cellular aging are tightly linked. Inflammatory states can accelerate cellular aging by promoting oxidative stress and DNA damage, impairing cellular repair mechanisms, and contributing to the shortening of telomeres—the protective caps at the end of chromosomes that preserve genomic integrity and are associated with longevity and cellular health.

Many relationships between cellular aging and inflammaging could be considered a “chicken or the egg” scenario. For example, it’s not entirely understood which comes first: heightened inflammatory responses causing telomere attrition, or shortened telomeres promoting a pro-inflammatory state. (The likely answer is that they both influence each other.)


Many correlational studies have found links between pro-inflammatory biomarkers and increased mortality or reduced lifespan.

For example, one study with about 1,350 older adults found that each one-point increase in IL-6 levels was linked to a shorter lifespan by 0.94 years and 1.35 years in men and women, respectively. The men in the study also had a 12% decrease in overall survival and a 1-year lifespan reduction for each one-point increase in C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. 

Another study showed that inflammatory states (as measured by the biomarkers IL-6, TNF-alpha, and CRP) predicted all-cause mortality in healthy older adults aged 100 to 110.

In this research, inflammatory states were found to be better predictors of longevity than telomere length, lipid and glucose metabolism, immune cell senescence, anemia, gender, and liver or kidney function. Researchers have previously shown that telomere length loses its predictive power as a longevity biomarker once people reach 75 years. As the participants in this study were already aged 100 and beyond, their telomere length differences didn’t matter as much anymore—as expected, they were all healthfully maintained—but inflammatory biomarkers did. 

The authors of this study conclude that suppressing the pro-inflammatory state is “the most important driver of successful longevity.” 

Metabolic Dysfunction

Elevated and chronic inflammatory states can also disrupt metabolic processes, leading to loss of insulin sensitivity, impaired glucose metabolism, dyslipidemia, and excess body weight. These are all significant risk factors for chronic diseases and are linked to increased mortality and shorter lifespans.

Metabolic dysfunction and pro-inflammatory states can become a vicious cycle, as a loss of insulin sensitivity increases inflammatory states, while excessive pro-inflammatory molecules can further impair insulin sensitivity. 

Dysfunctional Organ Health 

Inflammaging plays a central role in the development and progression of many age-related chronic conditions. When chronically inflamed, organs and tissues across the body can have impaired function, including the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, liver, and joints, leading to disease development. 

For example, a buildup of chronic pro-inflammatory molecules in the brain has been identified as a driving factor behind the development of several neurodegenerative conditions, while pro-inflammatory cascades in the liver are a key trigger for hepatic disorders. 

Impaired Immune Function

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, acute inflammatory responses are necessary for the immune system to react to infections or injuries. However, chronic pro-inflammatory states can cause immune system dysregulation, leading to immune overactivation or suppression.

Immune suppression can weaken the body's ability to defend against infections and increase one's susceptibility to getting sick or the duration of the disease, ultimately impacting overall health and longevity.

How to Fight Inflammaging As You Age

While a genetic basis behind high levels of some pro-inflammatory biomarkers (like CRP) has been uncovered, the majority of inflammaging comes down to environment and lifestyle. This can include what we eat and drink, how we exercise (or don’t), which toxins we encounter, and how well we manage stress and sleep.

Managing or preventing inflammaging through lifestyle modifications, dietary and supplement choices, regular exercise, proper sleep, and stress reduction can all help to promote healthy aging and longevity.

While plenty of medications are designed to reduce an excessive inflammatory response, many doctors and researchers think that a better way to reduce or prevent inflammaging lies in the fridge rather than in the medicine cabinet. From strawberries to salmon, there are plenty of foods to consider adding to your plate to support a healthier inflammatory response. 

Here are some of the top nutritional ways to fight inflammaging as you age:


To support a healthier inflammatory response, consider eating a diet rich in: 

  • Leafy greens 
  • Cruciferous vegetables (like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts)
  • Berries 
  • Pomegranate
  • Herbs and spices 
  • Oily fish 
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Olive oil
  • Green tea 

These foods and beverages have several things in common, including promoting healthier inflammatory responses by lowering the activity of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Most also contain high levels of polyphenolic antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress. 

For example, eating broccoli sprouts high in the antioxidant compound sulforaphane has been found to reduce levels of IL-6 and CRP in people with metabolic dysfunction.

Plus, what you don’t eat is also important. Some foods that are associated with a pro-inflammatory state include:

  • Refined sugar
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Refined carbohydrates 
  • Alcohol
  • Processed meat
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Highly processed seed oils
  • Trans fats


If you have trouble getting the above foods in your diet, there are several supplemental options to consider. For example, you can take omega-3 or EGCG supplements instead of eating oily fish or drinking green tea. While it’s always beneficial to get nutrients directly from whole food, supplements can help bridge the gap or provide higher doses than you could get from food. 

A few other supplements that may help support a healthy inflammatory response include:

  • Curcumin 
  • Resveratrol
  • Vitamin D 
  • Astaxanthin
  • Bromelain
  • Quercetin 

Key Takeaways:

  • Inflammaging is a common—but not normal—state in which older adults enter a chronic and systemic pro-inflammatory state that affects cell, tissue, and organ health and contributes to accelerated aging and disease. 
  • There are many ways to help fight back on inflammaging, including eating a diet rich in polyphenols and anti-inflammatory foods (like berries, cruciferous vegetables, olive oil, and green tea) while reducing your intake of refined sugar and carbohydrates, alcohol, fried foods, and more. 
  • Some supplements can help to bridge the gap if you don’t consume an antioxidant-rich diet, including curcumin, fish oil, astaxanthin, vitamin D, bromelain, and quercetin.


Arai Y, Martin-Ruiz CM, Takayama M, Abe Y, Takebayashi T, Koyasu S, Suematsu M, Hirose N, von Zglinicki T.  EBioMedicine. 2015 Jul 29;2(10):1549-58. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2015.07.029. PMID: 26629551; PMCID: PMC4634197.

Wassel CL, Barrett-Connor E, Laughlin GA. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010;95(10):4748-4755. doi:10.1210/jc.2010-0473

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