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Weight loss may help immune system: Study

Last Updated: Friday, April 23, 2010 - 18:30

Washington: Losing about six kg of excess
flab may help reverse the disturbed immune system of obese
people, particularly those with Type 2 diabetes, Australian
scientists have claimed.

The immune system is made up of many different kinds of
cells that protect the body from germs, viruses and other
invaders. These cells need to co-exist in a certain balance
for good health to be maintained.

Many factors, including diet and excess body fat, can tip
this balance, creating "pro-inflammatory" immune cells that
can harm, rather than protect, our bodies.

But the study conducted at the Garvan Institute of
Medical Research in Sydney found that shedding about 6 kg of
excess weight could reverse damaging changes in the immune
cells of obese people, LiveScience reported.

"Excess weight disorders now affect 50 per cent of adult
Australians, with obesity being the major cause of Type 2
diabetes and some cancers," said study researcher Katherine
Samaras, a professor the institute.

"The situation has reached crisis point, and people must
be made aware that excess fat will affect their immune systems
and therefore their survival," she said.

According to the scientists’ excess body fat, particularly
abdominal fat, triggers the production of "pro-inflammatory"
immune cells, which circulate in the blood and promote
inflammation in our bodies.

Such chronic inflammation has been linked with coronary
artery disease and other health problems. In addition, other
inflammatory immune cells, known as macrophages, are also
turned on within fat tissue.

But a moderate weight loss could bring down the levels of
pro-inflammatory cells to the levels found in lean people,
Samaras added.

For their study, the researchers looked at obese people
with Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes (a condition in which
people have high glucose levels) who were limited to a diet of
between 1,000 and 1,600 calories a day for 24 weeks.

The participants were then performed gastric banding -- a
procedure in which a band is placed around the upper part of
the stomach so that it can only hold a small amount of food --
at 12 weeks to help restrict food intake further.

The results showed an 80-per cent reduction in the number
of pro-inflammatory immune cells, as well as decreased
activation of macrophages in the participants` fat tissues.

"It`s the first time this has been described, and is
important because it helps us understand why some people lose
weight more easily than others, and that inflammation is
involved in regulating the response to [gastric banding]
surgery," Samaras said.

After the surgery, the scientists could also predict
about how much weight people would lose based on how active
the immune cells in their fat were.

However, the researchers said more work is needed to
tease the exact role of these immune cells in obesity and Type
2 diabetes.

The results of the study were published in the latest
issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism.


First Published: Friday, April 23, 2010 - 18:30

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