AIM: To investigate markers of systemic inflammation in pre- and postmenopausal women and identify possible predictors of systemic inflammation with menopause.

METHODS: Cross-sectional study of 69 healthy women between 45- and 60 years. Blood samples were collected to assess leukocyte subsets and plasma cytokines. MRI and DXA scans were performed to assess body composition. Through uni- and multivariate analyses, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), visceral fat mass and age were evaluated as predictors of systemic inflammation in relation to menopause.

RESULTS: Postmenopausal women tended to have higher leukocyte counts (5.4 x109 vs. 4.9 x109 cells/l, p = 0.05) reflected in increased total lymphocytes (1.8 x109 vs. 1.6 x109 cells/l, p = 0.01) and monocytes (0.5 x109 vs. 0.4 x109 cells/l, p = 0.02), compared to premenopausal women. Increased visceral fat mass was a strong predictor of high leukocyte subsets. Postmenopausal women had higher plasma TNF-α (2.24 vs. 1.91 pg/ml, p = 0.01) and IL-6 (0.45 vs. 0.33 pg/ml, p = 0.004) compared to premenopausal women and high FSH was a significant predictor of increased plasma TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-6. Menopause was further associated with increased T-cells (1,336 vs. 1,128 cells/μl, p = 0.04) reflected in significantly higher counts of exhausted-, senescent-, and memory CD4+ T-cell subsets.

CONCLUSIONS: Menopause is associated with increased systemic inflammation as well as exhausted- and senescent T-cells. We suggest, that both increased visceral fat mass and declining sex hormone levels might contribute to postmenopausal systemic inflammation and calls for further large-scale studies to confirm these findings.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0235174
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)e0235174
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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