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Being unfit or overweight raises white blood cell levels

Posted on Oct. 20, 2008, 5:54 a.m. in Exercise Inflammation Weight and Obesity

Recent study results have shown that unfit and overweight people have elevated levels of white blood cells, thus suggesting that being physically unfit and/or overweight puts people at risk of chronic or so-called silent inflammation.

Professor Tim Church and colleagues at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center took resting blood samples from 452 healthy men. Participants also underweight a treadmill exercise test and were weighed and measured so that their BMI could be calculated.  After adjusting for age, the researchers found that white blood cell levels were lowest in the fittest men and highest in those men who were the most physically unfit. Results also showed that white blood cell count increased inline with increasing body fat.

Chronic inflammation is a known risk factor for many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. It has been known for sometime that being overweight or obese is a risk factor for inflammation; however this new research suggests that being physically unfit may also trigger inflammatory processes.

Johannsen NM, Priest EL, Dixit VD, Earnest CP, Blair SN, Church TS. Association of White Blood Cell Subfraction Concentration with Fitness and Fatness. Br J Sports Med. 2008;doi:10.1136/bjsm.2008.050682


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