Can food restriction affect immune health?
A new study says yes. Research reported in the journal Science investigated the relationship of eating fewer calories, immune response, and inflammation.
Some undifferentiated cells from the bone marrow, proceed to the thymus gland to become T cells (T stands for thymus). The thymus is large at birth and increases until puberty, when it begins to shrink. Mature T cells become immunocompetent (educated) meaning they colonize in the lymph nodes, spleen, and tonsils where potential interactions can occur with pathogens and other immune system cells.
With aging, the thymus gland accumulates fat that interferes with thymus function. Fewer T cells are produced; thus immune function decreases.
Study participants restricted their caloric intake about 14% for two years. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) less thymus fat accumulated compared to a control group with no caloric restriction. Although no changes of gene expression were detected in the T cells DNA; changes in the fat tissue showed that expression that encodes a protein involved with inflammation was inhibited by the calorie restriction.
Editor’s Note: “Moderately decreased food intake that does not cause malnutrition has beneficial effects on healthspan and lifespan in model organisms.” The authors stated.
Science. 2002 Feb 11;375(6581):671-677.