People often crib about body fat and even feel ashamed, but do you know body fat is actually important for you. A new study has revealed that the cells present in the body fat help in fighting infection.
The study was carried out by a cohort of researchers at the US National Institutes of Health with Yasmine Belkaid as the senior investigator. They carried out the study on mice and monkeys and analysed the cells stored in fat.
Belkaid and her team discovered a type of immune cell called a memory T cell from the body fat of mice. After the memory T cells get exposed to pathogens, they learn to fight infection.
"Once exposed to a pathogen, they mount a stronger response the next time they encounter it," a report by New Scientist said.
Apart from mice, these memory T cells were also found stored in the body fat of monkeys. This revealed that the memory T cells present in our fat play a crucial function that we previously didn't know about.
"It means that fat tissue is not only a reservoir for memory cells, but those memory cells have enhanced function," said Belkaid. "The tissue is like a magic potion that can optimally activate the T cells," she added.
According to Anthony Ferrante, an associate professor of medicine at Columbia University, just like lymph nodes and thymus are considered as immune organs, fats should also be considered as an immune organ. Carrying some body fat is beneficial but being overweight or obese is still considered to be unhealthy.
"We now know that visceral fat, which is mainly in and around organs such as the liver, is different to subcutaneous fat and too many results in reducing the sensitivity that our body has to our own insulin," Dr Matthew Capehorn, GP and Medical Director at Lighterlife UK, was quoted as saying by The Independent.
"With further, or prolonged, excess weight, damage can occur to cells in the pancreas, making the problem much worse," Dr Capehorn added.