A lack of access to an adequate food supply can have a negative effect on a person’s immune system as a result of inadequate energy and a deficiency of vitamins and minerals.
Malnutrition, in the form of under-consumption, can lead to a suppressed immune system and the inability to produce an effective immune response. An ineffective immune system increases a person’s risk of contracting disease and their ability to recover. Interestingly, people who are obese, with an excess supply of nutrients, also have issues with immune function. Researchers looked at an animal model to find out more about how obesity impairs immune function.
They looked at T cell activation in a group of rats fed a high fat diet. T cells are a class of white blood cells that play a central role in immune response. When a bacteria or virus comes in contact with the immune system, T cells locate and destroy cells that have been infected. After a few days, rats that were fed a high fat diet had reduced T cell function. This response occurred before the animals experienced any weight gain. Consumption of saturated fats slowed the T cells and as a result they were not able to address infected cells as rapidly as they typically would.
Like malnutrition in the form of under-consumption, consuming a diet high in junk food and saturated fat can have a negative effect on the immune system and impair immune response. This effect appears to occur rapidly, before even a change in weight has occurred as a result of the high fat diet. The good news is, eating a healthy diet may have just as rapid effect in a positive direction. Talk to your doctor today to start getting your recommended dose of fruits and vegetables today and limit saturated fat intake to a minimum.
Reference: Pollock, AH et al. Prolonged intake of dietary lipids alters membrane structure and T cell responses in LDLr-/- mice. The Journal of Immunology Epub online July 28, 2016. doi: 10.4049/ jimmunol.1501261.