Weight loss benefits the immune system

We are all aware that excess weight is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and currently the links between overweight and cancer are beginning to become more widely known. But did you know that carrying excess weight can also prevent your immune system from working properly?

Obesity is known to be associated with a state of chronic systemic inflammation. Fat is an endocrine organ, secreting many factors that immune cells respond to – excess fat is thought to stimulate white blood cells (WBC) that produce inflammatory molecules as a part of the normal immune response upon injury or infection. Fat cells may also produce these inflammatory molecules. Obesity’s effects on the immune system likely underlie some of its connections to chronic diseases.1

Obesity is associated with elevated numbers of circulating immune cells and total WBC,2 as well as elevated activation levels of certain WBC and suppressed immune cell function.3 In short, excess weight seems to promote a state of overstimulation of the immune system, which impairs normal immune function. Calorie restriction, on the other hand improves immune function and reduces production of inflammatory molecules.1

The current study evaluated immune cell number and activation in response to a significant amount of weight loss (average 13.5% of body weight) in type 2 diabetics and prediabetics over a 24-week period.  The researchers found an 80% decrease in circulating T-helper cells (a type of immune cell); decreased activation of circulating immune cells and other WBC, and also reduced activation of adipose tissue immune cells.4

This study suggests that weight loss can reverse the damage to the immune system that occurs due to obesity. Weight loss, therefore, in addition to reducing systemic inflammation and risk of chronic disease, may also improve resistance to bacterial and viral infections by restoring balance to the immune system. 

Consistent with these data, those who follow a Nutritarian diet often have lower than average white blood cell counts, reflecting appropriate levels of systemic inflammation and immune system activation. Lower WBC counts are reflective of excellent health and associated with longer lifespan.5 As such, those whose healthful eating habits cause WBC counts drop below the normal range should not be alarmed. 

 

References:

1. Dixit VD. Adipose-immune interactions during obesity and caloric restriction: reciprocal mechanisms regulating immunity and health span. J Leukoc Biol. 2008 Oct;84(4):882-92.

2. Womack J, Tien PC, Feldman J, et al. Obesity and immune cell counts in women. Metabolism. 2007 Jul;56(7):998-1004.

3. Nieman DC, Henson DA, Nehlsen-Cannarella SL,et al. Influence of obesity on immune function. J Am Diet Assoc. 1999 Mar;99(3):294-9.

4. Viardot A, Lord RV, Samaras K. The effects of weight loss and gastric banding on the innate and adaptive immune system in type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. JClin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Jun;95(6):2845-50.

5. Candore G, Colonna-Romano G, Balistreri CR, et al. Biology of longevity: role of the innate immune system. Rejuvenation Res. 2006 Spring;9(1):143-8.

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Obese Kids Get More Allergies

Appearing in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, scientists believe a positive association exists between obesity and allergies. Research involving 4,000 children, ages 2 to 19, revealed antibodies for specific allergens, such as indoor, outdoor and food allergens, were higher in overweight or obese children. Data revealed obese kids were 26% more likely to have some kind of allergy and the rate for food allergies was 59% higher among obese children; Reuters investigates.

The CDC now claims 3 million kids have food allergies. According to Dr. Fuhrman breastfeeding is major-preventer of allergies. Antibodies derived from mother’s milk help maximize immune system function. Now, allergies are bad enough, but overweight kids, even as young as 3 years old, can start showing signs of heart disease, for real!

In related news, a study of 3,000 children found kids spending two or more hours watching television per day, were twice as likely to develop asthma as kids watching less.

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Magic Mushrooms Boost Immunity

Some mushrooms will kill you! But others will make you big and strong. A new study in the journal BMC Immunology reveals eating mushrooms bolstered the immune system of mice. To investigate, experts fed mice white button, crimini, maitake, oyster and shiitake mushrooms. Libratory mice eating a diet consisting of 2% white buttons mushrooms were more protected against colon inflammation and related symptoms, such as weight-loss and colon injury, known risk factors for the development of colon tumors. Researchers expect similar beneficial effects in humans; Reuters reports.

Dr. Fuhrman considers mushrooms an excellent substitute for meat and some scientists believe mushrooms’ low energy content, i.e. low calories, can combat obesity, satisfying people but not overstuffing them with extra calories. Mushrooms fight prostate cancer too.

But many people dislike mushrooms. In the United Kingdom, mushrooms are one the healthy foods Britons force themselves to choke down and the United States hates mushrooms.

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Vitamin D Lowers Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

Vitamin D supplements may reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune condition causing the immune system to attack the central nervous system. Disease onset occurs in young adults and affects 350,000 people in the United States, but new findings in the journal PLoS Genetics reveal giving infants vitamin D may “switch on” certain genes and lower overall risk of multiple sclerosis; NutraIngredients reports.

Our bodies convert ultraviolet rays from the sun into vitamin D and vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium, leading to stronger bones and less risk of osteoporosis. And getting sufficient vitamin D has been linked to lower risk of prostate cancer and hypertension.

Actually in 2006, Harvard researchers also determined higher levels of vitamin D may protect against multiple sclerosis.

Image credit: -Chad Johnson

Fear of Nuts, Hysteria!

Breastfeeding is strong medicine! Breast milk provides babies with necessary antibodies that help ward off allergies and boost immune systems and Dr. Fuhrman blames the decrease in breastfeeding for the rise in allergies among young children.

And now, a new study in the British Medical Journal claims the fear of nut allergies is becoming overblown. Researchers suggest the food industry’s restrictions and warnings about nuts, however well intentioned, are fueling the hysteria.

Especially since a previous study in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology shows despite 69% of Israeli children eating nuts and only 10% of British children consuming nuts, kids in the U.K. were 10 times more likely to have peanut allergies; FoodNavigator reports.

Clearly, there is another factor at play here and not just nuts themselves.