The inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) has been linked to poor health outcomes in older adults. Oxidative stress triggers the production of IL-6, and antioxidant micronutrients play a critical role in decreasing this inflammatory response. The authors sought to identify the relations between serum levels of antioxidant nutrients and IL-6 and mortality in older women. Levels of α- and β-carotene, lycopene, lutein/zeaxanthin, α-cryptoxanthin, total carotenoids, retinol, α-tocopherol, zinc, and selenium were measured at baseline in 619 participants in Women's Health and Aging Study I (Baltimore, Maryland, 1992-1998). IL-6 was measured at baseline and at follow-up 1 and 2 years later, and all-cause mortality was determined over a 5-year period. Participants with the highest serum levels of α-carotene, total carotenoids, and selenium were significantly less likely to be in the highest tertile of serum IL-6 at baseline (p < 0.0001). Those with the lowest levels of α- and β-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin, and total carotenoids were significantly more likely to have increasing IL-6 levels over a period of 2 years. Those with the lowest selenium levels had a significantly higher risk of total mortality over a period of 5 years (hazard ratio = 1.54, 95% confidence interval: 1.03, 2.32). These findings suggest that specific antioxidant nutrients may play an important role in suppressing IL-6 levels in disabled older women.
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