Recently, we demonstrated that intracerebroventricular injection of IL-6 increases energy expenditure and decreases body fat in rodents. Therefore, IL-6 may play a role in appetite and body weight control in the central nervous system. In the present study we evaluated cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum IL-6 levels in humans in relation to body fat content and to CSF and serum levels of leptin. Thirty-two healthy overweight/obese male subjects with a body mass index range of 29.3-36.0 kg/m(2) were studied. Total and sc body fat were measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry and computed tomography, respectively. CSF IL-6 levels were in some individuals higher than serum IL-6 levels and correlated negatively with total body weight, sc and total body fat. In contrast, CSF leptin levels were 30-60 times lower than serum leptin levels and correlated positively with serum leptin, body weight, sc and total body fat. Furthermore, there was a negative correlation between CSF IL-6 and leptin. In conclusion, CSF IL-6 differs in many ways from CSF leptin. CSF IL-6 may be locally produced rather than serum derived, and body fat-regulating regions in the central nervous system may be exposed to insufficient IL-6 levels in more severe obesity.