Harvard Health Letter

Inflammation: A unifying theory of disease

Inflammation: A unifying theory of disease?

Research is showing that chronic inflammation may be the common factor in many diseases.

When it comes to risk reduction, it often seems as though we need to keep a running tab of things to avoid or embrace. Lay off saturated fats to keep our arteries clean. Steer clear of carbs to stave off diabetes. Stay away from smoking to prevent lung cancer. Solve the sudoku puzzle to outwit dementia. And exercise, exercise, exercise! Wouldn't it be nice if there were a one-stop approach to health just as there is to shopping?

Although there may never be such a single path, mounting evidence suggests a common underlying cause of major degenerative diseases. The four horsemen of the medical apocalypse — coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's — may be riding the same steed: inflammation.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »