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Post-menopausal women exhibit greater interleukin-6 responses to mental stress than older men

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posted on 08.03.2016 by Romano Endrighi, Mark Hamer, Andrew Steptoe
Background Acute stress triggers innate immune responses and elevation in circulating cytokines including interleukin-6 (IL-6). The effect of sex on IL-6 responses remains unclear due to important limitations of previous studies. Purpose The purpose of this study was to examine sex differences in IL-6 responses to mental stress in a healthy, older (post-menopausal) sample accounting for several moderating factors. Methods Five hundred six participants (62.9 ± 5.60 years, 55 % male) underwent 10 min of mental stress consisting of mirror tracing and Stroop task. Blood was sampled at baseline, after stress, and 45 and 75 min post-stress, and assayed using a high sensitivity kit. IL-6 reactivity was computed as the mean difference between baseline and 45 min and between baseline and 75 min post-stress. Main effects and interactions were examined using ANCOVA models. Results There was a main effect of time for the IL-6 response (F 3,1512 = 201.57, p = <.0001) and a sex by time interaction (F 3,1512 = 17.07, p = <.001). In multivariate adjusted analyses, IL-6 reactivity was significantly greater in females at 45 min (M = 0.37 ± 0.04 vs. 0.20 ± 0.03 pg/mL, p = .01) and at 75 min (M = 0.57 ± 0.05 vs. 0.31 ± 0.05 pg/mL, p = .004) post-stress compared to males. Results were independent of age, adiposity, socioeconomic position, depression, smoking and alcohol consumption, physical activity, statin use, testing time, task appraisals, hormone replacement, and baseline IL-6. Other significant predictors of IL-6 reactivity were lower household wealth, afternoon testing, and baseline IL-6. Conclusions Healthy, post-menopausal females exhibit substantially greater IL-6 responses to acute stress. Inflammatory responses if sustained over time may have clinical implications for the development and maintenance of inflammatory-related conditions prevalent in older women.

Funding

This study was supported by the British Heart Foundation.

History

School

  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

Annals of Behavioral Medicine

Citation

ENDRIGHI, R., HAMER, M. and STEPTOE, A., 2016. Post-menopausal women exhibit greater interleukin-6 responses to mental stress than older men. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 50 (4), pp.564-571.

Publisher

Springer Verlag / © The Authors

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VoR (Version of Record)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ by/4.0/

Publication date

2016

Notes

This is an Open Access article published by Springer and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

ISSN

1532-4796

Language

en

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