Obesity Causes Fat Cells To Act As Though They Are Infected

The inflammation of fat tissue is part of a series of events caused by obesity which lead to the development of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. It was previously thought that adipocytes (fat cells) were only capable of storing and releasing energy but it now appears that when they are ‘overfed’ they signal as if being attacked, triggering an immune response which leads to inflammation.

High calorie diets cause the fat cells to make ‘major histocompatibility complex 2’ which is a groups of proteins that are only usually expressed to help the immune system fight off viruses and bacteria. In effect, the fat cells issue false distress signals as if they are infected which leads to inflammation. Immune responses can be more harmful than helpful, and this is the case when an immune response is falsely signalled causing the body to respond rapidly as if the body were under serious threat.

Scientists believe that they can target this fat cell behaviour and create a drug which will be able to alleviate the inflammation of fat cells and the negative consequences associated with obesity, leaving time to treat the condition itself before the individual’s health deteriorates.


Deng T, Lyon CJ, Minze LJ, Lin J, Zou J, Liu JZ, Ren Y, Yin Z, Hamilton DJ, Reardon PR, Sherman V, Wang HY, Philips KJ, Webb P, Wong STC, Wang RF, Hsueh WA, Class 2 Major Histocompatibility Complex Plays An Essential Role In Obesity-Induced Adipose Inflammation, Cell Metabolism, 2013, 17(3): 411-22.

About the Author

Job Role Sports Nutritionist and Social Media Coordinator Qualifications Bsc Sport and Exercise Science Steph has a competitive athletic background which spans 19 years. As a child she performed with the English Youth Ballet and had performed on the West End stage by the age of 10. Her enthusiasm for sport and fitness continued to grow as she did, encouraging her to learn more about nutrition and training. She began using her knowledge and personal experience to help others when she began coaching at the age of 16. From here, she went on to study Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Essex during which time she also received the Most Promising Newcomer Award from her University to mark her outstanding contribution to sport. During her first year of study she was introduced to partner stunt acrobatics and artistic gymnastics. After one year of dedicating herself to a lifestyle revolving around her sport, she was training with the best team in the UK who are currently ranked fifth in the world. Steph has worked in both the private and public sector coaching children and adults from grassroot to elite level as well as providing them with cutting edge advice on how to reach their goals. Steph has received awards for her choreography and has competed nationally and internationally meaning that she can back up her scientific knowledge with a wealth of experience. As our resident Sports Nutritionist, Steph is here to provide the most current and evidence based fitness, health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
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