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A new UCSF pilot study has a simple suggestion for a treatment of serious age-related issues like Alzheimer's, diabetes and heart disease. The best part? You might already own it
University researchers in tandem with the San Francisco Veterans Administration (VA) Health Care System now have reason to believe that inflammation of the skin may further the development of multiple chronic diseases, and one way to help fix the issue is by applying reparative moisturizer.
The study's authors write that as skin starts to lose moisture and deteriorate around age 50, the beginning to experience a breakdown of the "permeability barrier." The barrier is meant to keep water in the body and act as a shield from sinister pathogens outside our bodies.
RELATED: More than 120,000 Bay Area residents spend at least 3 hours commuting every day, study says  When this barrier weakens with age because of the loss of moisture, it releases cytokines (a variety of protein released by immune system cells) into signal inflammation in the age-affected areas of the skin. Typically, such cytokines are meant to help repair the barrier, but older skin takes more effort to fix, researchers write, so the skin repeatedly releases these "inflammatory signals." Eventually, the cytokines can leak into the blood, potentially causing inflammation all over the body.
Previously, researchers didn't suspect that could blame to further such diseases, but more recent studies have pointed to the possibility that skin inflammation may be blame for heart disease
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"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," said study senior author Dr. Mao-Qiang Man. "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 body, it elevates circulating cytokine levels." The UCSF study was conducted with 33 adults between the ages of 58 and 95 years old. They were given a type of moisturizer researchers had noted for their ratio of three lipids known to be beneficial to skin health. The participants were directed to apply the moisturizer all over the body twice a day for a month, after which clinicians found their cytokine levels "to be almost equivalent to people in their 30s, suggesting that the skin can reverse inflammation. "
Next, scientists will follow up on their initial findings with a more long-term study to test the effects of applying the moisturizer. If the findings are similar, it may confirm that applying repressive moisturizer may be effective in spelling off chronic diseases. Alyssa Pereira is an SFGATE staff writer. Email here at [email protected] or find here on Twitter at @alyspereira .