We are aware that excess weight is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and the links between overweight and cancer are becoming more widely known. But did you know that carrying just a few pounds of excess weight can also prevent your immune system from working properly? Excess weight 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 making those extra pounds an unwanted ticket to chronic disease.And excess fat is thought to stimulate white blood cells that produce inflammatory molecules as a part of the normal immune response upon injury or infection.


Humans, as a species, are poorly adapted to over-nutrition. Having evolved in times of frequent famine, the human body is not developed for constant exposure to a calorie-rich and sedentary environment. This can lead to serious health consequences such as hormonal and metabolic changes that result in a compromised immune system. What scientist believe is that excess weight promotes 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. The good news is that studies suggest weight loss can reverse the damage to the immune system that occurs due to those excess pounds. 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.



Apart from the health problems and chronic diseases arising from low-grade, chronic inflammation, those extra pounds result in a state of immunodeficiency. Human immunity has developed, over evolutionary time, into a complex system that impacts a great deal of human biology. It is for this reason that it often a key player in the cause of many ailments. It has recently been implicated in human obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes – these three conditions constitute the so-called metabolic syndrome. Immune responses are potent reactions to bodily insults and, therefore, must be tightly regulated with diet and exercise.

Hormone Levels and the Immune System

What do hormone levels have to do with excess weight and a person’s immune system? Researchers at Michigan State University found that leptin, a hormone that is produced by fat cells and controls appetite and how quickly we burn off calories, also enhances the body’s immune response. The more body fat you have, the more leptin there is floating around in your bloodstream. Problem is, too much of the hormone can lead to leptin resistance, the point at which leptin can no longer do its job. For their study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, MSU researchers provided supplemental leptin to obese mice that had nonfunctional leptin (they were leptin resistant). While it was no surprise that the supplement helped the obese mice eat less, it also doubled their number of B cells, a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies and fights infection.


1. Anti-inflammatory Agents. From a purely biochemical/chemical point of view an anti-inflammatory is anything that neutralizes oxidation created in the body by inflammation. This is quite a broad definition. There are lots of anti-inflammatory agents but foods with high levels are usually the natural choice (fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices) that have high levels of antioxidants. Also omega-3 oil in fish is a good source. These foods are usually highly coloured – think about green, red, orange fruit & veggies. In terms of herbs and spices there are many that are packed with antioxidants (anti-inflammatory agents) which could also help. Ginger for example is a good source and there is plenty of scientific support that it can reduce inflammation.

2. Water yourself. A recent study proved that dieters who guzzled plenty of water lost more weight than those who didn't.

3. Reduce calories. Divide your normal portion by two and save the rest for later. You are likely to feel full on less food than you think.

4. Go meatless. In general, vegetarians have lower body weights than their meat-eating peers. Follow their lead -- at least until you drop a few pounds.

5. Go vegan. Vegetarianism can take it to the next level by swearing off eggs and dairy too. Cheese can be a diet killer.

6. Get fresh. Eliminate all packaged foods and eat only fresh ingredients you've prepared. No bags, boxes, cans, or cartons allowed.

7. Diet 2 days a week. If you can't stick to a program all the time, try slashing your calories to 650 a day just 2 days a week and eating normally the other days. A recent study suggests this offers protection from breast cancer as well as assistance with weight loss.

8. No sweets. Everyone knows sugar isn't healthy, but when you start reading labels, you find it in unexpected places, like pasta sauce and frozen entrees. Cutting the sugar out of your diet will mean healthier meals overall.

9. Go without flour. The short-term elimination of floury foods like white bread and pastries can efficiently kick-start your weight loss plan.


And by the way inflammation usually manifests itself as pain and/or chronic disease. Just to know that an intact and functioning immune system is critical for protection against infectious disease is the best motivation to lose that annoying ten pounds.