A new study is raising even more concerns about the already questionable flu vaccine, while highlighting yet another reason obesity can be dangerous. The study, which was led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, found that obese mice did not gain extra influenza protection from vaccines that contain adjuvants. This casts doubt on the vaccine’s effectiveness in obese humans, who are already at an increased risk of severe cases of the flu.
The study is the first to show that the strategies currently being used to strengthen the flu vaccine’s effectiveness, such as increasing the dose or adding adjuvants to boost immune response, do not protect obese mice from getting infections despite helping leaner mice.
The researchers studied both lean and obese mice’s immune responses to vaccines targeting a seasonal influenza A H1N1 strain and an A(H7N9) virus that is believed to have the power to trigger a human pandemic. The ways in which the dose of the vaccine and the adjuvants used affected the response were also studied.
Poor immune responses noted in obese mice
The obese mice were found to have lower antibody and neutralizing antibody levels, while registering higher levels of the virus itself. Moreover, the obese mice did not note the additional protection from severe influenza infections provided by adjuvants that lean mice enjoyed. A fourfold increase in the A(H7N9) vaccine dose did boost immune response in mice of all weights, but it did not protect the obese ones from dying of the flu.
Scientists believe that the problem has to do with the obese mice’s immune responses and not the antibodies on their own, because protective antibodies taken from lean mice did not manage to protect the obese ones from being infected by the flu either. The obese mice appeared to be more susceptible to the flu virus in general. It penetrated into their lungs more deeply, and their bodies had more trouble repairing the damage.
America’s growing obesity epidemic putting people at risk
This is bad news at a time when flu pandemics are a growing concern, particularly those of the avian variety. However, the biggest concern in this scenario is the global rise of obesity. According to the World Health Organization, around 10 percent of the world’s adults and 42 million children younger than 5 can be classified as obese. Meanwhile, around a third of Americans are obese and another third are overweight.
This not only boosts their risk of flu-related complications and being hospitalized or even dying from the flu, but it also makes them vulnerable to a number of other ailments. Obesity has now been officially linked to a sobering 11 types of cancer. If that isn’t enough to get people moving, it’s hard to imagine what is.
It has been estimated that 100,000 new cases of cancer could be avoided by the year 2030 if every adult lowered their BMI by one percentage point. Obesity has also been linked to early death in general, which is why it is absolutely vital for people who value their lives to maintain a healthy weight.
Most people are already familiar with the advice to “eat less and move more,” but what you eat can be just as important as the amount you consume. A diet that is rich in fiber, vegetables and fruits is the best approach, and processed meat should be avoided at all costs.
A healthy diet can help people reach and maintain a healthy weight, while foods high in Vitamin C are desirable for healthy immune function, particularly during flu season. Nature has given us all we need to stay healthy, so it’s not surprising that those who eschew fruits and vegetables in favor of artificial foods find themselves overweight and vulnerable to illness. Thankfully, it’s never too late to take steps to turn this situation around!