Brits in a chronic inflammation epidemic says new study

Published 30th Jan 2024 by Kezia Parkins

The UK is in the midst of an unknown epidemic with one in five (18%) British people saying they suffer from chronic inflammation.

But while so many of us suffer, a study by FutureYou Cambridge reveals that very few take any steps to ensure the silent killer is kept at bay. A huge 81% of Brits admit to having an unhealthy lifestyle, with nearly half (45%) not sleeping well at night, feeling constantly stressed (43%) and a third (35%) saying they don’t exercise much – all proven contributors to inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is pain and inflammation that can last for months, or even years, and while three in five (62%) Brits are aware it can lead to other much more serious health conditions, a shocking 72% still do absolutely nothing to avoid it. A huge 39% of British people either suffer from chronic inflammation themselves or have a loved one who does.

When it comes to the type of symptoms sufferers live with, the most common is fatigue (36%), followed by joint pain (35%) and lower back pain (34%).

When asked about their unhealthy habits, Newcastle is the UK’s unhealthiest city with regard to avoiding inflammation, with 46% regularly drinking alcohol, 45% having poor sleep and 38% eating junk food. Edinburgh was the UK’s healthiest inflammation avoidance city with just 33% drinking alcohol regularly, and 15% saying they vape or smoke.

The top five unhealthiest cities when it comes to preventing inflammation 1 in the UK are:

1. Newcastle

2. Cardiff

3. Norwich

4. Manchester

5. Leeds

People correctly believe the three main causes of chronic inflammation are:

1. Lifestyle (46%)

2. Diet (38%)

3. Stress (30%)

In the UK, on average, 61% of us consume ice cream, biscuits and sweets regularly while over half (53%) eat crisps and packet noodles. 40% rely on ready meals, a quarter (27%) have regular takeaways and over a third (38%) drink fizzy drinks. However, people do appreciate that maintaining a healthy diet is the best way to reduce inflammation (63%) followed by regular physical exercise (57%) and getting enough high-quality sleep (34%).

Dr Miriam Ferrer, PhD Head of Product Development at FutureYou Cambridge says: “To learn that one in five of us suffer from symptoms of chronic inflammation is extremely sad and shocking. The best treatment is prevention; trying your best to live a healthy and active lifestyle, cutting down on foods that support inflammation and attempting to keep mental stress in perspective. Increasing your intake of antioxidants from food, or with help of food supplements such as turmeric can also make a significant difference. While many people believe that chronic inflammation will start over the age of 40, it can happen at any time so it’s important to look after yourself and make positive changes that will impact the short as well as the long term.”

Of 2,000 people asked, 42% take vitamins regularly with the main reason being to support immunity (39%), help with joint comfort and mobility (37%), bone strength (35%) and energy (33%). People also recognise the benefits of turmeric, with nearly half (47%) of us incorporating this ingredient into our diets.

Award-winning pharmacist and nutritionist Aidan Goggins shares his top tips on reducing chronic inflammation:

1. Chew Gum

Periodontal inflammation (relating to teeth and surrounding structures) is increasingly recognised as not just an oral health issue, but also as being one of the causes that can lead to general inflammation in the body. A 2022 review 2 found that regular chewing of xylitol-based sugar-free gum has potent effects against gingival (gums) inflammation, which is typically the precursor to periodontal inflammation.

2. Don’t Oversleep

Overindulging in sleep can backfire. Studies 3 indicate that sleeping more than 10 hours a night can make inflammation worse, while seven to nine hours is the optimum amount of sleep each night.

3. Add Spice to Your Plate

Spices do more than tantalise your taste buds; they fight inflammation. Research 4 has found that frequent consumption of spicy foods—three or more times a week—can lower your death risk by 14% compared to those who eat them less than once a week.

4. Drink Coffee

Often surprising to many, coffee is more than a morning pick-me-up—it actively combats inflammation. Rich in bioactive ingredients, coffee has been shown to neutralise free radicals and diminish inflammation. Interestingly, caffeine itself plays a role by exerting antioxidant effects that lower inflammatory markers.

5. Laugh More

The science is clear: laughter is a potent anti-inflammatory. One study 5 showed that a mere 20 minutes of laughter, triggered by comedy, reduced a common inflammation marker, unlike serious films that had no effect.

6. Align with Your Body Clock

Disturbing your body's natural 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, can trigger inflammation. This internal clock regulates physiological and behavioural processes according to the time of day. Whether it's late-night snacking or inconsistent sleep, such disruptions can increase inflammation. Night-shift workers, a group who have off-kilter circadian rhythms, have notably elevated inflammatory markers.

Kezia Parkins

Kezia Parkins

Published 30th Jan 2024

Kezia Parkins is the deputy editor of Professional Beauty. She has a background in medical journalism and is also as trained nail tech. As such, she is particularly passionate about all thing nails, as well as the science behind beauty products and treatments. Contact her at [email protected]

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