Effects of acute or chronic heat exposure, exercise and dehydration on plasma cortisol, IL-6 and CRP levels in trained males

Cytokine. 2018 Oct:110:277-283. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2018.01.018. Epub 2018 May 7.


This study examined the acute and chronic effects of euhydrated and hypohydrated heat exposure, on biomarkers of stress and inflammation. Eight trained males [mean (SD) age: 21 (3) y; mass: 77.30 (4.88) kg; V̇O2max: 56.9 (7.2) mL kg-1 min-1] undertook two heat acclimation programmes (balanced cross-over design), once drinking to maintain euhydration and once with restricted fluid-intake (permissive dehydration). Days 1, 6, and 11 were 60 min euhydrated exercise-heat stress tests (40 °C; 50% RH, 35% peak power output), days 2-5 and 7-10 were 90 min, isothermal-strain (target rectal temperature: 38.5 °C) exercise-heat sessions. Plasma was obtained pre- and post- exercise on day 1, 2, and 11 and analysed for cortisol, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and C-reactive protein (CRP). Cortisol and CRP were also assessed on day 6. IL-6 was elevated following the initial (acute) 90 min isothermal heat strain exercise-heat exposure (day 2) with permissive dehydration ((pre exercise: 1.0 pg mL-1 [0.9], post-exercise: 1.8 pg mL-1 [1.0], P = .032) and when euhydrated (pre-exercise: 1.0 pg mL-1 [1.4], post-exercise: 1.6 pg mL-1 [2.1], P = .048). Plasma cortisol levels were also elevated but only during permissive dehydration (P = .032). Body mass loss was strongly correlated with Δcortisol (r = -0.688, P = .003). Although there was a trend for post-exercise cortisol to be decreased following both heat acclimation programmes (chronic effects), there were no within or between intervention differences in IL-6 or CRP. In conclusion, acute exercise in the heat increased IL-6 and cortisol only when fluid-intake is restricted. There were no chronic effects of either intervention on biomarkers of inflammation as evidenced by IL-6 and CRP returning to basal level at the end of heat acclimation.

Keywords: Acclimation; Acclimatization; Extreme environments; Stress; Thermoregulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism*
  • Dehydration / blood*
  • Dehydration / metabolism*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / blood*
  • Male
  • Young Adult


  • IL6 protein, human
  • Interleukin-6
  • C-Reactive Protein