We all know that being over-weight or obese is correlated with a number of medical diseases. However, did you know that too little fat can also predispose you to skin infections? Well, according to a new article published on January 2, 2015 in the journal of Science, researchers at the University of California San Diego, have found that not only does a healthy and robust immune system help to fight off infections, but so do fat cells below the skin.
The article shows that fat cells, known as adipocytes, produce antimicrobial peptides (short- chains of protein) that defend against invading bacteria and other microbes. This is a great discovery considering that it was thought that white blood cells were the only cells to defend against infections.
The human body’s defense system, which fights against infections, is complex and multi-tiered. It however primarily employs white blood cells that target the invading microbes. Before these white blood cells can arrive at the infection site, the body needs a more immediate response to fight off the infectious agent. It is now clear that fat cells under the skin may present as your body’s first line of defense when it comes to microbes that. Exposure to microbes that penetrate through the skin results in a large increase in both the size as well as the number of the fat cells around the infection site. These detected fat cells then produce high levels of antimicrobial peptide, which are used by the immune system to directly kill bacteria.
While this is a great find, there can be complications. It has become clear that the presence of fat cells at an infection site will fight against the bacteria and microbes but lack of fat cells can adversely affect spread of infections. This happens because it takes time for the white blood cells to recirculate and find their way to the infectious area. This information has now opened up new options for research studies.