Weight Loss Strengthens Immune System

Scientists from a growing number of research institutions such as the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Boston Medical Center are now examining the relationship between the functioning of the immune system and being overweight. Research that has been previously performed has already shown that people who are obese are at a greater risk of certain diseases – from cancer to heart disease and even periodontal disease – than their leaner counterparts. The more recent studies are looking into why this is the case.

Although it is not the be all end all to avoiding the flu or a cold, losing weight can help boost your immune system.

Although it is not the be all end all to avoiding the flu or a cold, losing weight can help boost your immune system.

So far, what has been determined is that people who are overweight – especially those who are obese – produce cytokine irregularly. Cytokine is a form of protein (also called peptides) which is crucial to immune system cell signaling so that the disease-fighting cells will be “dispatched” in order to battle an infection in the body. Therefore, in obese people, the body experiences a lower level of signaling proteins to call for an immune response once a problem is present in the body.

Furthermore, the immune system cells themselves – such as macrophages (a form of white blood cell) and T-cells – were altered when compared to people who were in their ideal body mass index. There were significantly lower levels of macrophages in people who were heavily overweight and obese people.

Though this does not explain the entire relationship between obesity, being overweight, and the immune system, it does give a jumping off point for researchers to understand why people who are overweight or obese are at higher risk of many diseases. The body simply cannot effectively signal for help when an infection is present. Since obesity involves an estimated three hundred million people worldwide, this can easily be considered an epidemic problem of pandemic proportions. Each of these people is at a significantly heightened risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.

This being said, I know many people thinner than I am who seem to get sick more frequently with colds and the flu. There are so many factors that determine how often you will become ill, particularly during flu season, and many of them are not related at all to your body weight. In general, the best ways to avoid getting the flu are to:

  • have good hygiene (wash your hands lots, especially after being in public places)
  • get plenty of rest (particularly if you are feeling run down)
  • eat a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables that are source of important disease-fighting vitamins, such as vitamin C (for more information see the post “Flu Fighting Diet Foods”)

Even though losing weight won’t guarantee you will avoid the flu and other bugs, these studies do give us another good reason to shed our excess pounds. Just as it is important to take actions in order to prevent and treat other health problems, it is up to each of us to make an effort to prevent and treat obesity in our own lives in order to help to maintain an effective immune system. Particularly in a time when all we hear about is flu viruses and superbugs, making every effort to boost our immune systems, even if it means getting more exercise and eating healthier, may just save our lives.

Other Related Posts and Articles you May Find Interesting: “Exercising with a Cold”, “Healthy Weight Loss Diet May Prevent Cancer” and “Link Between Breast Cancer and Obesity”.


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