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Getting to the heart of inflammation

Friday May 24, 2019
Getting to the heart of inflammation

Inflammation is at the heart of every condition and disease.  Specifically, inflammation is an immediate immune response and generally occurs alongside pain, heat and reduced mobility of the body part in question.  In fact, short term inflammation (known as acute inflammation) is beneficial, it exerts an anti-bacterial effect, brings blood and nutrients to the injured or infected site and triggers the turnover of cells necessary for the healing process.  


It is when inflammation becomes long-term, known as chronic inflammation that it becomes a problem.  Chronic inflammation is self-sustaining and so, inflammatory signalling agents are activated that both stimulate new sites of inflammation while prolonging existing inflammation.

Inflammation of the cardiovascular system is generated from a variety of sources.  The inflammation can spread from a previous site or be generated to through the immune response to a trigger (infection, illness or injury).  Take hardening of the arteries as an example, also known as Atherosclerosis which involves the accumulation of fats circulating in the blood stream that bind with clotting factors and calcium to form a fatty streak in the lining of the blood vessel.  The streak develops into a mass, often called arterial plaque, the plaque attracts immune factors that signal for inflammation and the area becomes inflamed.  As more fats, clotting factors, calcium and immune cells gather, more and more inflammation occurs.  


Other cardiovascular inflammation includes[1]; Myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart chambers.  Cardiomyopathy refers to a group of diseases of the heart, the most common being enlargement of the heart, a highly inflammatory and stressful state.  Pericardial disease, where the pericardium; the sac that surrounds the heart becomes inflamed.  And Valvular heart disease that involves the failure of the heart valves causing a leak, narrowing or a prolapse, all being highly inflammatory.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a nutrient-dense root native to India, its bio-active constituents; curcumin and the curcuminoids give the root its yellow-orange colour, while also responsible for a great deal of health benefits.  In addition, whole turmeric root contains essentials oils, polysaccharides, proteins and many non-curcumin phytochemicals, which appear to be as active or as important as curcumin itself[2].  The whole spice, turmeric has been used in Indian Ayurvedic Medicine for centuries for healing and blood and skin purification. 

Many of curcumin’s health benefits are derived from its ability to interrupt the inflammatory cascade by inhibiting inflammatory signalling agents[3]  [4].   Remarkably, curcumin has been documented to exert a protective effect against toxin-induced heart damage.  In fact, both turmeric and curcumin have been shown to reduce the detrimental processes stimulated by toxins such as those from diesel exhaust fumes, drug toxicity, nicotine or cadmium, while restoring the body’s own depressed defences in the heart tissues[5].

Another superior nutrient is Co-enzyme Q10 whose cardiovascular benefits were highlighted in the early 1980’s by a renowned Cardiologist; Dr Karl Folkers.  Dr k Folker discovered that CoQ10 improved the symptoms and survival of heart failure patients.  Consequently, CoQ10 has been implemented into cardiac treatment and pre-cardiac surgery since the 1980’s in recognition of its effect on preservation of the cardiac mitochondria, these cells are responsible for energy production in the heart.  Subsequently, CoQ10 has been shown to enhance blood flow and protect the blood vessels through the protection and regulation of vasodilatory agents[6].  


Despite being a widely used medication, Statins are known to deplete the body of CoQ10 and it is suggested to contribute to the pain that can occur with statin therapy.  However, studies show that those highly affected experienced significant reductions of pain using 60mg CoQ10 twice daily for 60 days[7].

It is advisable in those who have a diagnosed cardiovascular condition to discuss this potential supplemental combination with their healthcare professional.

Author: Jenny Carson is a Nutritional Practitioner and Technical Advisor at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc honours degree in Nutritional Science.

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 Inside Inflammation


 [1] World Heart Federation, (2018), Different Heart Diseases, [Online] Accessed: 9 October 2018.

[2] Aggarwal BB, et al. (2013) Curcumin-free turmeric exhibits anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities: Identification of novel components of turmeric. Mol Nutr Food Res. 57(9):1529-42.  

[3] Khajehdehi P, Pakfetrat M, Javidnia K, Azad F, Malekmakan L, Nasab MH, Dehghanzadeh G. Oral supplementation of turmeric attenuates proteinuria, transforming growth factor-ß and interleukin-8 levels in patients with overt type 2 diabetic nephropathy: a randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study. Scand J Urol Nephrol. 2011 Nov;45(5):365-70. 

[4] Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Dugall M, Pellegrini L, Ledda A, Grossi MG, Togni S, Appendino G. Efficacy and safety of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, during extended administration in osteoarthritis patients. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Dec;15(4):337-44.  

[5] O.M. Abo- Salem, G.I. Harisa, T.M. Ali, E.S.M. El- Sayed, F.M. Abou- Elnour, (2014), Curcumin ameliorates streptozotocin-induced heart injury in rats, J. Biochem. Mol. Toxicol., 28(6):263-70.  

[6] F. Schardt, D. Welzel, W. Schiess, K. Toda, (1985), Effect of CoQ10 on ischemia-induced ST-segment depression: a double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover study, K. Folkers, Y. Yamamura (Eds.), Biochemical and Clinical Aspects of CoQ10, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 385-394.  

[7] David A. Bookstaver, Nancy A. Burkhalter, Christos Hatzigeorgiou, (2012), Effect of Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation on Statin-Induced Myalgias, The American Journal of Cardiology, 110(4):526-529.  

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.

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TAGS: Nutrition News and ViewsCardiovascular health, Cardio


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