Your Fat is Fighting Off Infection

By Jamie Condliffe on at

Fat isn't all bad. In fact, maybe you should celebrate it just a little bit: new research suggests that it plays a vital role in fighting off infections.

A team form the University of California, San Diego, has found that fat cells in mice release a chemical called cathelicidin when they're confronted by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. That chemical interferes with the cell membranes of bacteria and is also known to harm viruses (though it's worth admitting that nobody quite knows how).

What's interesting is that similar mice, genetically modified to hold little in the way of fat, developed much worse infections when given the same bacteria in controlled tests. The researchers have also demonstrated that cathelicidin is produced by human fat cells, too—so we experience a similar effect.

However, it's worth noting that more fat doesn't provide more protection. In fact, Jay Kolls from the University of Pittsburgh points out to New Scientist that obesity causes more problems than the presence of fat can solve. So, perhaps somewhat predictably, the message here is that you want to carry a little bit of fat—but not too much. [Science via New Scientist]

Image bySuzanne Tucker/Shutterstock.