Body Weight and the Immune System

Posted: Nov 12 in Lifestyle by

Research shows a compelling relationship between obesity and the human immune system. The strength of this link helps explain why it is so difficult for some people to lose weight, even after repeated attempts to exercise and eat healthy. Learn about the immune system’s role in the body’s metabolism and what you can do to maintain a healthy weight.

The Body’s Immune System

As much as 40 percent of our body’s ability to regulate weight could be related to our immune system. Normally, we think of the immune system as just a way of protecting us from disease and sickness. However, the immune system has played an important role in our evolution, by helping protect the survival of our species. Once an individual gains weight, the body’s immune system has a powerful response to defend against losing weight, and this is part of what makes it so difficult for people to achieve their weight loss goals.

Metabolism at a Cellular Level

When it comes to losing weight, it’s important to take a closer look at the role of cell metabolism. An immune cell called invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cell is particularly critical in regulating and maintaining weight loss. It helps the body’s fat cells manufacture fibroblast growth factor 21, a protein that turns white fat into a healthier brown fat. The process of browning the fat cells uses up large amounts of metabolic energy, leading to faster weight loss. Obese people have more sluggish immune systems, and thus fewer iNKT cells.

Strategies to Strengthen Your Immune System

With all the critical functions your immune system plays in weight loss, it’s important to learn what you can do to strengthen your immunity. Some simple ways to support a healthy immune system include getting adequate sleep, not smoking, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and exercising regularly.

Other Strategies to Lose Weight

Even a modest amount of weight loss can reverse the negative effects of obesity on the immune system, and of course there are many healthy changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle that will increase metabolism as well. In addition, several factors will help increase metabolism, including incorporating strength training into your workouts, reducing stress levels, and ensuring adequate sleep. Before beginning any weight loss program, it is advisable to consult a health care professional.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the key to developing a strong immune system. However, getting started on a new routine isn’t always easy with busy schedules and competing demands.  Fortunately, there are many fun ways to get in shape, whether it’s joining a high-intensity workout at a local gym or taking regular evening walks. Enlist the help of a friend or family member to get started and stick with new healthy habits by giving yourself regular rewards.

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