This week, a team of researchers at UC San Francisco announced something shocking; an issue you would have never thought of might be contributing to a “wide range of chronic, age-related issues including heart disease and Alzheimer’s:”1 age-damaged skin in older adults. (This adds credence to what so many holistic, naturopathic and integrative physicians say, the body works together as a whole. Medicine has to be a whole body approach, not band-aids for pieces and parts.)
For a long time, scientists have wondered why “there were so many inflammatory cytokines in the circulation system of older adults”1 given that young people don’t normally have as many. And now they believe our skin is the culprit.
Working with the San Francisco Veterans Administration Health System, the dermatological researchers found,
“As aging skin begins to break down, the immune system releases small proteins known as cytokines to signal that there’s inflammation in damaged areas of the skin. These tiny inflammatory cytokines can leak into the body’s circulation system, and if there are enough of them, they trigger body-wide inflammation. That triggers so called “inflamm-aging” among older adults.”1
Dr. Mao-Qiang Man, the study’s senior author said, “The inflammation must come from an organ big enough that very minor inflammation can affect the whole body. Skin is a good candidate for this because of its size. Once we get old, we have dermatological symptoms like itchiness, dryness and changes in acidity. It could be that the skin has very minor inflammation, and because it’s such a large organ, it elevates circulating cytokine levels.”1
For the experiment, the team measured the cytokine levels of each participant (ages 58-95) then asked one group of seniors to apply a specified amount of skin cream twice daily over 30 days (they also had groups of young people and seniors who did not use any of the lotion). At the end of the experiment, everyone’s cytokine levels were measured again “and the seniors who used the skin cream saw dramatic reductions in three cytokines linked to age-related chronic diseases: interleukin-1 beta, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor.
In the adults who used the skin cream, cytokine levels fell nearly to the level of people in their 30s, their skin’s acidity lowered, there was improved hydration, and the skin repaired its permeability.
Admittedly, the study was small but researches believe their results were promising and hope others will be able to reproduce their results.