Chronically high levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6), a marker of inflammation, are associated with “unhealthy aging”, according to researchers. Dr Tasnime Akbaraly, of INSERM (Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale), Montpellier, France and University College London, United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed data on 3044 civil servants aged 35-years from the Whitehall II study in the United Kingdom. The researchers used 2 measures of IL-6 and assessed these about 5-years apart; they then linked these measurements to the presence or absence of cardiovascular disease, death from noncardiovascular causes, and “successful aging” during a 10-year follow-up. Participants were classified into 4 groups: (1) successful aging – defined by the absence of chronic diseases and disability combined with optimal cognitive, physical, respiratory and cardiovascular functioning (24%); (2) nonfatal or fatal cardiovascular disease (11%); (3) death from other diseases (5%); and (4) normal aging (61%). Results showed that having high IL-6 levels at the start of the study, as well as at 2 intervals within a 5-year period nearly halved the odds of successful aging 10-years later and was associated with increased odds of future cardiovascular disease and death from noncardiovascular causes in a dose-response fashion. The authors concluded: “Maintaining a low IL-6 level may facilitate successful aging by reducing the likelihood of impaired musculoskeletal functioning and increasing the likelihood of remaining free of diabetes.”
TN Akbaraly, M Hamer, JE Ferrie, G Lowe, GD Batty, G Hagger-Johnson, et al. “Chronic inflammation as a determinant of future aging phenotypes.” CMAJ. 2013 Sep 23.