Temporary weight gain over the winter holidays... might be a good thing

December 01, 2004

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- We are admonished not to gain weight during winter's two big eating holidays -- but might a little temporary fat actually strengthen our immune systems?

Indiana University Bloomington assistant professor and biologist Gregory Demas is studying the relationship between fat reserves and immune function in animal models.

So far, Demas has found that sudden weight loss leads to the rapid depression of immune function, and he says the opposite also holds true: an increase in fat reserves bolsters the strength of the animals' immune systems. Similar studies in humans have not yet been conducted.

A little extra fat could help humans and other animals deal with cold weather by providing extra insulation from the cold as well as extra energy to immune systems facing an onslaught of pathogens.
-end-
To speak with Gregory Demas, please contact David Bricker at 812-856-9035 or brickerd@indiana.edu. To speak to a medical scientist about why cold exposure impairs human immune function, contact Mary Hardin at 812-274-5456 or mhardin@iupui.edu.

Indiana University

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