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Body fat can prevent infection, claims study

An extra chocolate biscuit may ward off winter flu

Sabrina Barr
Thursday 04 January 2018 16:00 GMT

As the Christmas season draws to a close, many people start to complain about the extra weight they’ve put on thanks to all the mince pies and roast potatoes.

However, new research has discovered that the cells found in fat may be crucial for helping your body fight infection.

A team at the US National Institutes of Health carried out a study with mice and monkeys to analyse the cells stored in fat.

Senior investigator Yasmine Belkaid and her team discovered the presence of a type of immune cell in the body fat of mice called a memory T cell.

Memory T cells learn to fight infection from previous exposure to pathogens, as stated by the New Scientist.

“Once exposed to a pathogen, they mount a stronger response the next time they encounter it,” they wrote.

Mice weren’t the only animals noted as storing memory T cells in their body fat. The memory T cells detected in the body fat of monkeys were also found to fight infection efficiently.

This means that the memory cells stored in our fat may have a more important function than previously realised.

“It means that fat tissue is not only a reservoir for memory cells, but those memory cells have enhanced function,” Belkaid said.

“The tissue is like a magic potion that can optimally activate the T cells.”

Anthony Ferrante, an associate professor of medicine at Columbia University has stated that he believes these findings prove that fat should be considered as an immune organ alongside other immune organs such as lymph nodes and the thymus.

While it may be beneficial to carry some body fat, being excessively overweight can still be very detrimental to your health.

“We now know that visceral fat, which is mainly in and around organs such as the liver, is different to subcutaneous fat and too much results in reducing the sensitivity that our body has to our own insulin,” Dr Matthew Capehorn, GP and Medical Director at Lighterlife UK, told The Independent.

“With further, or prolonged, excess weight, damage can occur to cells in the pancreas, making the problem much worse."

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