Heightened inflammation in bipolar disorder occurs independent of symptom severity and is explained by body mass index

Erik L. Knight, Christopher G. Engeland, Anastasia K. Yocum, Ahmad Abu-Mohammad, Holli Bertram, Erica Vest, Melvin G. McInnis, Erika F. H. Saunders

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Inflammation is hypothesized to be a key component of bipolar disorder (BP) development and progression. However, findings linking BP prevalence and symptomology to immune functioning have been mixed, with some work suggesting that obesity may play an important role in BP-relevant inflammation. Here we investigate differences in biomarkers of inflammation [C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10] between healthy controls (HC) and individuals with BP or other mental illness (MI). Adults with BP, MI, or HC (n = 545, 70% BP, 21% HC, 9% MI) self-reported depressive and manic symptoms close to a blood draw and physical exam that included measurement of height and weight. A composite score was calculated from the four cytokines measured in plasma; follow-up analyses explored a pro-inflammatory composite and IL-10, individually. BP individuals had elevated cytokine concentrations compared to HC (B = 0.197, [0.062, 0.333], t (542) = 2.855, p = .004); this difference was also evident for the pro-inflammatory composite and for IL-10. Cytokine concentrations were not associated with BP mood states. Body mass index (BMI), an indicator of obesity, was significantly higher in BP compared to HC (B = 3.780, [2.118, 5.443], t (479) = 4.457, p < .001) and differences in cytokines between the two groups was no longer significant after controlling for BMI. No differences in CRP were evident between BP and HC. These results suggest that cytokine concentrations are elevated in BP and this difference from HC is associated with obesity. Interventions targeting immune modulators in BP must carefully consider the complex relationships within the BP-inflammation-obesity triangle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100613
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity - Health
StatePublished - May 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nephrology

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