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Exercise and inflammation.

Back in 2003, Danish researchers showed for the first time that interleukin-6 (IL-6), released by skeletal muscle during physical activity, lessens inflammation. They performed three experiments with eight healthy men. In the first, the men rested for 3 hours (control). In the second, the men rode bicycles for 3 hours. In the third, the men received infusions of recombinant human IL-6 while resting for 3 hours. In each of these experiments, researchers gave the men an intravenous bolus of E. coli lipopolysaccharide endotoxin to cause low-grade inflammation at 2.5 hours into the experiment. As expected, plasma TNF-alpha levels rose significantly--"a 2- to 3-fold increase" (Mathur & Pedersen)--during the control experiment. "In contrast, during [exercise] which resulted in elevated IL-6 and rh-IL-6 infusion at physiological concentrations," write Starkie et al., "the endotoxin-induced increase in TNF-alpha was totally attenuated." Further research proved that contracting muscle produces and releases IL-6.

Since that time, research has shown that IL-6 levels can increase up to 100-fold during exercise that does not incur muscle damage. "The magnitude by which plasma IL-6 increases is related to exercise duration, intensity, and muscle mass involved in the mechanical work," according to a 2008 review article by Neha Mathur and Bente Klarlund Pedersen. In addition to inhibiting TNF-[alpha] (an inflammatory cytokine that rises during infection and contributes to metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance), IL-6 increases lipolysis and fat oxidation. After working muscles release IL-6, other anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1-ra and IL-10) also rise.

Increased levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines during physical activity may explain why exercise has shown consistent benefits in the prevention of inflammation-associated disease such as cardiovascular illness, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.

Mathur N, Pedersen BK. Exercise as a mean to control low-grade systemic inflammation. Mediators Inflamm. 2008. Available at Accessed March 25, 2014.

Starkie R, Ostrowski SR, Jauffred S, Febbraio M, Pederson BK. Exercise and IL-6 infusion inhibit endotoxin-induced TNF-alpha production in humans. FASEB J. May 2003;17(8):884-886. Available Accessed April 12, 2014.

briefed by Jule Klotter

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Title Annotation:Shorts
Author:Klotter, Jule
Publication:Townsend Letter
Geographic Code:4EUDE
Date:Jun 1, 2014
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