- If you are affected by obesity, decrease your calories to help facilitate weight-loss.
- Decrease simple carbohydrates such as: sweets, goodies, baked goods, sugar sweetened beverages, sugar, honey, jams, jelly, etc.
- Decrease excess “bad” (saturated or trans) fats commonly found in: commercial baked goods, processed or fried foods, cheese, whole and 2% milk, ice cream, cream, fatty meats (beef and pork products), butter and margarine. Bad fats are also found in some vegetable oils – coconut, palm and palm kernel oil.
- Eat two cups of whole fruit per day and at least three cups of vegetables per day.
- Drink or eat three cups of low-fat (1% or skim) liquid dairy or dairy alternative per day (light yogurt, low-fat or fat-free milk). Eat two to three ounces of lean meat or beans with two meals per day (three ounces = deck of cards).
- Drink at least 60 to 80 ounces of water per day.
Exercise and Immune Function
Exercise and health go hand-in-hand. We have all heard that exercise helps fight diseases such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, cancer, sleep disturbances, mood and obesity itself. In general, people who exercise and are physically active throughout the day tend to live longer, healthier lives. There is also evidence that exercise does improve immune function. Studies have shown that exercise seemed to increase numbers of certain immune cells that help to bolster immune activity.
Moderate exercise has been reported to increase certain immune cells, reducing the risk of infection. On the other hand, too intense of exercise (without adequate rest) has actually been shown to increase stress on the body and cause a person to be more at-risk to infection.
Obesity and Immune Function
A person affected by obesity that eats healthy and exercises is still at risk for decreasing immune function. Obesity itself has been shown to impair immunity in some studies. Some of these specific findings include:
- Decreased cytokine production
- Altered monocyte and lymphocyte function
- Natural killer cell dysfunction
- Reduced macrophage and dendritic cell function
- Decreased response to antigen/mitogen stimulation
Now, you may be saying to yourself, “What does all that mean?” The bottom line is studies have shown impaired immune response in animals and people affected by obesity, leading to increased risks of infection. The exact cause of these findings is not known. Obesity is an extremely complex disease and many processes and pathways are altered, any of which could affect the immune system.
Population studies have shown the same things. For instance, hospitalized patients affected by obesity are more likely to develop secondary infections and complications, such as sepsis, pneumonia, bacteremia, and wound and catheter infections. Overall, it appears that obesity may increase risk for bacterial and viral infections. Severe obesity, in and of itself, has also been named a risk factor for increased severity of infection and death from the H1N1 influenza strain. Those affected by obesity may also be at risk for viruses like H1N1 because of less of an immune response to vaccinations, although it has not been studied to date.
Vaccines and Obesity
Some studies have described relationships between vaccine response and obesity. Vaccines work by introducing a killed or weakened form of disease to the immune system. The killed or weakened disease is not strong enough to produce symptoms or signs of the disease, but the vaccine does stimulate production of antibodies to protect against the disease if you come in contact with it in the future.
A lot of work has been done regarding hepatitis B vaccines in regards to obesity, in which studies show strong evidence that individuals affected by obesity have a very high non-response rate to vaccination. This means after the introduction of the “non-active virus” to the individual’s immune systems, the disease fighting antibodies are not produced to the extent they need to be to protect against the disease.
In a person affected by obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30-39), studies have shown that it takes a more potent hepatitis B vaccine in order to come close to the response rate of a standard single dose therapy in an individual with a BMI less than 30 (overweight).