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Johar, Hamimatunnisa; Spieler, Derek; Bidlingmaier, Martin; Herder, Christian; Rathmann, Wolfgang; Koenig, Wolfgang; Peters, Annette; Kruse, Johannes and Ladwig, Karl-Heinz (2021): Chronic Inflammation Mediates the Association between Cortisol and Hyperglycemia: Findings from the Cross-Sectional Population-Based KORA Age Study. In: Journal of Clinical Medicine, Vol. 10, No. 13, 2751

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(1) Background: The study aimed to investigate the role of subclinical inflammation on the association between diurnal cortisol patterns and glycaemia in an aged population. (2) Methods: Salivary cortisol, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) were analysed in a sample of 394 men and 364 women (mean age = 5 +/- 6.3, 65-90 years). The ratio of morning after awakening and late-night cortisol was calculated as an indication of diurnal cortisol slope (DCS). Multivariable regression models were run to examine whether IL-6 mediates the relationship between the DCS and glycaemia. The Sobel test and bootstrapping methods were used to quantify the mediation analyses. (3) Results: In comparison to normoglycaemic counterparts (n = 676, 89.2%), an increase in IL-6 concentrations, in individuals with hyperglycaemia (HbA1c >= 6.5%) (n = 82, 10.8%) (p = 0.04), was significantly associated with a flatter DCS. The link between flatter DCS and elevated HbA1c level was significant mediated by a heightened IL-6 level. Our results do not suggest reverse-directionality, whereby cortisol did not mediate the association of IL-6 with HbA1c. (4) Conclusions: In our sample, the relation between flatter DCS and hyperglycaemia was partly explained by IL-6 levels. The paradigm of subclinical inflammation-mediated cortisol response on glucose metabolism could have widespread implications for improving our understanding of the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

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