Chronic inflammation is associated with various disorders and conditions such as heart disease, as well as cancer, dementia and autoimmune diseases.
Dwelling on negative events can increase levels of inflammation in the body.
Researchers at Ohio University discovered that when study participants were asked to ruminate on a stressful incident, their levels of C-reactive protein*, a marker of tissue inflammation, rose.
The research team led by Peggy Zoccola, an assistant professor of psychology, recruited 34 healthy young women to participate in the project. Each woman was asked to give a speech about her candidacy for a job to two interviewers in white laboratory coats, who listened with stone-faced expressions.
Half of the group was asked to contemplate their performance in the public speaking task, while the other half was asked to think about neutral images and activities, such as sailing ships or grocery store trips.
The researchers drew blood samples that showed that the levels of C-reactive protein were significantly higher in the subjects who were asked to dwell on the speech, Zoccola reported.
For these participants, the levels of the inflammatory marker continued to rise for at least one hour after the speech. During the same time period, the marker returned to starting levels in the subjects who had been asked to focus on other thoughts.
The above story is based on the March 13, 2013 news release by Ohio University.
The research findings will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Miami, Fla.
C-reactive protein is primarily produced by the liver as part of the immune system's initial inflammatory response. It rises in response to traumas, injuries or infections in the body.
C-reative protein is widely used as a clinical marker to determine if a patient has an infection, but also if he or she may be at risk for disease later in life.