Longitudinal associations between circulating interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein in childhood, and eating disorders and disordered eating in adolescence

Francesca Solmi*, Cynthia M Bulik, Bianca L De Stavola, Christina Dalman, Golam M Khandaker, Glyn Lewis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

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OBJECTIVE: Few studies have explored the association between inflammation and eating disorders and none used a longitudinal design. We investigated the association between serum-levels of interleukin 6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP) measured in childhood and eating disorders and related behaviours and cognitions in adolescence in a large general population sample.

METHODS: We used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Our exposures were thirds of IL6 and CRP derived from serum measurements taken at age nine years, and outcomes were eating disorder diagnoses and self-reported disordered eating behaviours at ages 14, 16, and 18 years. We used univariable and multivariable multilevel logistic regression models adjusting for a number of potential confounders, including sex, fat mass, and pre-existing mental health difficulties.

RESULTS: Our sample included 3480 children. Those in the top third of CRP had lower odds of binge eating (odds ratio(OR):0.62, 95% confidence interval (CI):0.39,1.00,p "equals" 0.05) and fasting (OR:0.63, 95% CI:0.38,1.07,p "equals" 0.09) after adjustment for confounders. We also observed weak associations of comparable magnitude for purging, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa. We did not find any associations between levels of IL6 and any of the outcomes under study.

CONCLUSIONS: There was little evidence of an association between CRP and IL-6 and adolescent eating disorder outcomes. The inverse association observed between CRP and binge eating was unexpected, so caution is needed when interpreting it. One possible explanation is that higher CRP levels could have a protective role for disordered eating by affecting appetitive traits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-500
Number of pages10
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2020


  • Eating disorders
  • Inflammation
  • IL6
  • CRP
  • Cohort study

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