Obesity May Impair Immunity, Arteries

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People who are obese (more than 20% over ideal weight) are more likely to have impaired immune systems, says a recent joint study from Appalachian State and Loma Linda Universities. This supports previous reports that obese persons suffer more infectious illnesses than those of normal weight do.

Moreover, the obese women in the study exhibited elevated blood levels of leukocytes and neutrophils--specialized immune cells--which may contribute to the increased risk of heart disease seen in those who are overweight.

Leukocytes might encourage plaque to build up on artery walls, say the researchers, as a result of chronic infection, inflammation and oxidative damage, for example. Additionally, elevated neutrophils tend to clump, causing a release of free radicals and enzymes that can injure artery walls, inviting plaque to develop.

Journal of the American Dietetic Association

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