Interleukin-6 stimulates lipolysis and fat oxidation in humans

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Jul;88(7):3005-10. doi: 10.1210/jc.2002-021687.


Although IL-6 is a key modulator of immune function, it also plays a role in regulating substrate metabolism. To determine whether IL-6 affects lipid metabolism, 18 healthy men were infused for 3 h with saline (Con; n = 6) or a high dose (High-rhIL6; n = 6) or a low dose (Low-rhIL6; n = 6) of recombinant human IL-6 (rhIL-6). The IL-6 concentration during Con, Low-rhIL6, and High-rhIL6 was at a steady state after 30 min of infusion at approximately 4, 140, and 320 pg/ml, respectively. Either dose of rhIL-6 was associated with a similar increase in fatty acid (FA) concentration and endogenous FA rate of appearance (R(a)) from 90 min after the start of the infusion. The FA concentration and FA R(a) continued to increase until the cessation of rhIL-6 infusion, reaching levels approximately 50% greater than Con values. The elevated levels reached at the end of rhIL-6 infusion persisted at least 3 h postinfusion. Triacylglycerol concentrations were unchanged during rhIL-6 infusion, whereas whole body fat oxidation increased after the second hour of rhIL-6 infusion. Of note, during Low-rhIL6, the induced elevation in FA concentration and FA R(a) occurred in the absence of any change in adrenaline, insulin, or glucagon, and no adverse side effects were observed. In conclusion, the data identify IL-6 as a potent modulator of fat metabolism in humans, increasing fat oxidation and FA reesterification without causing hypertriacylglyceridemia.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Energy Metabolism / immunology
  • Epinephrine / blood
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Glucagon / blood
  • Glycerol / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Insulin / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / administration & dosage*
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Lipolysis / drug effects*
  • Lipolysis / immunology
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine / blood
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Oxygen Consumption / immunology
  • Recombinant Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids
  • Insulin
  • Interleukin-6
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Triglycerides
  • Glucagon
  • Glycerol
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine