A study funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the July 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, examined the effects of exercise and antioxidant supplements on the inflammatory markers C-reactive protein, interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha).
Inflammation is related to a large number of chronic diseases and is associated with obesity and increased age. Bouts of intense or prolonged exercise may stimulate an inflammatory response according to many studies, but the effect of regular exercise on inflammation has been less well researched.
Researchers examined data from the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study which provided information on body mass index, exercise and activity levels, and medication and nutritional supplement intake for 2,964 men and women recruited from two locations in the United States. Blood samples were analyzed for serum levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, and plasma levels of TNF-alpha.
In this study, individuals who reported higher levels of exercise and higher levels of nonexercise physical activity had lower levels of C-reactive protein, interleukin-6 and TNF-alpha. As revealed in previous studies, body mass index was positively related to levels of all three inflammatory markers. The use of multivitamin supplements, beta carotene, vitamin C and/or vitamin E, was associated with lower levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 regardless of whether the participant reported high or low exercise levels. The authors wrote that “taking an antioxidant supplement was associated with CRP levels similar to those seen in those who exercised 180 minutes/week or more and did not take supplements.”
The authors note that differences in body fat level explained some but not all of the association found between exercise levels and reduction in inflammatory markers in this study.
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society; July 2004