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Int J Obes (Lond). 2012 Aug;36(8):1072-7. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2011.208. Epub 2011 Oct 25.

Obesity is associated with impaired immune response to influenza vaccination in humans.

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Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.



Obesity is an independent risk factor for morbidity and mortality from pandemic influenza H1N1. Influenza is a significant public health threat, killing an estimated 250,000-500,000 people worldwide each year. More than one in ten of the world's adult population is obese and more than two-thirds of the US adult population is overweight or obese. No studies have compared humoral or cellular immune responses to influenza vaccination in healthy weight, overweight and obese populations despite clear public health importance.


The study employed a convenience sample to determine the antibody response to the 2009-2010 inactivated trivalent influenza vaccine (TIV) in healthy weight, overweight and obese participants at 1 and 12 months post vaccination. In addition, activation of CD8⁺ T cells and expression of interferon-γ and granzyme B were measured in influenza-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) cultures.


Body mass index (BMI) correlated positively with higher initial fold increase in IgG antibodies detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to TIV, confirmed by HAI antibody in a subset study. However, 12 months post vaccination, higher BMI was associated with a greater decline in influenza antibody titers. PBMCs challenged ex vivo with vaccine strain virus, demonstrated that obese individuals had decreased CD8⁺ T-cell activation and decreased expression of functional proteins compared with healthy weight individuals.


These results suggest obesity may impair the ability to mount a protective immune response to influenza virus.

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