Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a multifunctional cytokine that is produced by many different cell types, and plays an important role in the regulation of inflammation, immune responses, the acute-phase response, and hematopoiesis. Previous laboratory and clinical studies have shown that IL-6 causes a significant decrease in serum iron levels. Therefore, we conducted an epidemiological study to examine the association between serum IL-6 and iron levels.
In total, 280 Japanese individuals aged 20–78 years were enrolled when they visited a clinic located in an urban area for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection tests and subsequent eradication; 65.3% were infected with H. pylori. Subjects with gastric cancer, idiopathic thrombocytopenia, or IL-6 > 10 pg/mL were excluded from the study. Serum iron and IL-6 levels were measured using the 2-nitroso-5-(N-propyl-3-sulfopropylamino) phenol method and chemiluminescence enzyme immunoassay, respectively.
Geometric mean iron and IL-6 levels were 111.5 μg/dL and 1.77 pg/mL, respectively, for men, and 89.4 μg/dL and 1.55 pg/mL, respectively, for women. The logarithm of serum iron levels was negatively correlated with the logarithm of IL-6 levels in men (r = −0.19, p = 0.047), but not in women (r = −0.035, p = 0.65). Regression analysis, adjusted for sex, age, and H. pylori infection status, showed that the logarithm of serum iron levels was significantly associated with a decreased logarithm of IL-6 levels (β = −0.053, p = 0.041). The odds ratio for low serum iron levels adjusted for sex, age, and H. pylori infection status was 7.88 (95% CI 1.29–48.06) in those with an IL-6 level > 4 pg/mL.