Inflammation, Stress Make Colds More Likely [Study]

Inflammation is one of the current demons du jour for healthy lifestyle buffs, but a new study has illustrated what havoc the bodily process causes when left unchecked.

If you’ve watched late night infomercials for magic weight loss pills, you’ve probably heard of cortisol. Released by the body in response to psychological stress, cortisol also can deaden immune cells exposed to it- creating insensitivity to cortisol’s regulating effects sand promoting inflammation. While researchers have been examining the link between cortisol and inflammation for some time, a new study out of Carnegie Mellon is the first to look at the effects of psychological stress on physiological health.

studying stress

Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences led the study, and Cohen commented on the findings:

“The immune system’s ability to regulate inflammation predicts who will develop a cold, but more importantly it provides an explanation of how stress can promote disease. When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease.”

Cohen continues:

“Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress impacts them as well. Knowing this is important for identifying which diseases may be influenced by stress and for preventing disease in chronically stressed people.”

The inflammation and stress study was two-pronged, first measuring vulnerability to the common cold and cortisol in a group of 276 healthy adults, and then re-examining the mechanism in a group of 76 volunteers. The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.