We’re all well aware of the negative impact obesity can have on our health. But what is the relationship between weight and immunity? Since the pandemic has hit us, people are beginning to learn that there are several aspects of their health that they need to track. Losing weight to reach a healthy fitness level is one simple way to improve your immunity while getting a host of surrounding benefits.
Recent data shows that the number of overweight and obese individuals in India has reached alarming proportions. The term overweight, refers to a person having bodyweight that is greater than what is considered normal or healthy for a certain height. Most people know that the body stores excess fat to use later for energy if food becomes scarce and to protects vital organs. However, extra fat in the body can act against your immune system leading to metabolic disease. Let us understand how excess fat affects the immune system:
- Excess body fat in the body sabotages your immune system by leaving it triggered. Blame the adipose tissue
- Inflammation caused by body fat makes you sick and delays the recovery process, and you become more vulnerable to disease
Studies have shown that excess body fat, especially abdominal fat, triggers the production of "pro-inflammatory" immune cells, circulating in the blood and promoting inflammation. Fat cells also make other compounds, such as leptin and adiponectin, that modulate overall immune function. Anyone can be at risk, depending on their body fat percentage, not their weight. However, the good news is that you can reduce and reverse these changes. Well-known links exist between diet, exercise, and immune function. Eating healthier and incorporating moderate exercise can help to increase your immune function. Here is what you can do with your diet to help your immunity:
- Reduce overall calorie consumption, decrease your calorie intake to help facilitate weight loss.
- Limit the intake of simple carbohydrates such as sweets, refined flour, sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar, honey, jams, jelly, etc.
- Decrease saturated or trans fats commonly available in commercial baked goods, processed or fried foods.
- Include 2-3 servings of fruit per day and at least 4-5 servings of vegetables per day.
- Increase intake of protein from varied sources and avoid red meat and full cream milk and milk products.
- Drink at 2-2.5 litres of water per day.
- Include some movement or exercise like yoga, dance, walking, jogging, running, or trying your hands with your favourite sport.
Eating a diet high in fibre and antioxidants, mainly fruits and vegetables, and having enough protein helps keep your immune system to work correctly. Specific micronutrients such as iron, selenium, zinc, copper, and vitamins C, A, E, B-6, and folic acid, have essential roles in the body's immune response. Gradual, healthy weight loss is advisable rather than going for an extreme fad diet. It might take 6 month or even a year, but small sustainable results should be your focus while losing weight. A healthy body, better self image and fewer sick days are well worth the effort.