Objective: This study aimed to investigate the role of cytokines as intermediates in the pathway from increased adiposity to disease. Methods: BMI and circulating levels of up to 41 cytokines were measured in individuals from three Finnish cohort studies (n = 8,293). Mendelian randomization (MR) was used to assess the impact of BMI on circulating cytokines and the impact of BMI-driven cytokines on risk of obesity-related diseases. Results: Observationally, BMI was associated with 19 cytokines. For every SD increase in BMI, causal effect estimates were strongest for hepatocyte growth factor, monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1), and tumor necrosis factor–related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) and were as ratios of geometric means 1.13 (95% CI: 1.08-1.19), 1.08 (95% CI: 1.04-1.14), and 1.13 (95% CI: 1.04-1.21), respectively. TRAIL was associated with a small increase in the odds of coronary artery disease (odds ratio: 1.03; 95% CI: 1.00-1.06). There was inconsistent evidence for a protective role of MCP-1 against inflammatory bowel diseases. Conclusions: Observational and MR estimates of the effect of BMI on cytokine levels were generally concordant. There was little evidence for an effect of raised levels of BMI-driven cytokines on disease. These findings illustrate the challenges of MR when applied in the context of molecular mediation.
Publication forum classification
- Publication forum level 1
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Nutrition and Dietetics