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Humans evolved in a world with high levels of infection resulting in high mortality across the life span and few survivors to advanced ages. Under such conditions, a strong acute-phase inflammatory response was required for survival; however, inflammatory responses can also promote chronic diseases of aging. We hypothesize that global historical increases in life span at older ages are partly explained by reduced lifetime exposure to infection and subsequent inflammation. To begin a test of this hypothesis, we compare C-reactive protein (CRP); levels in two populations with different epidemiological environments: the Tsimane of Bolivia and persons in the United States. High CRP is significantly more prevalent among the Tsimane up through middle age; by age 35, the Tsimane have spent more years with high CRP than have Americans at age 55. Further testing of the links among infection, inflammation, and chronic diseases of aging among the Tsimane requires collection of age-specific indicators of atherosclerosis and cardiac function.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, volume 63, issue 2, in 2008.

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Oxford University Press