Why Fat-Burning Strengthens Your Immunity
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS
Right now, maybe you’re wondering what having a “fat-burning metabolism” could possibly have to do with immunity, and COVID-19? Fat-burning sounds great when you’re talking weight loss, but immunity? Really?
Well, let’s do a little thought exercise together.
What are the “underlying conditions” that spell disaster for people who test positive for COVID-19?
Don’t bother to look it up, I’ll save you the time:
Diabetes, heart disease, obesity, asthma, chronic kidney disease and liver disease.
Now riddle me this: What do they all have in common?
Here’s the answer: Insulin resistance.(1,2)
How do we treat insulin resistance? All together, class: with diet!
Yup, a simple, higher-fat, moderate protein, lower-carb diet is exactly how functional medicine practitioners – from the Scripps Institute in San Diego to Duke University in Durham* – treat insulin resistance when they see it, and they see it constantly.
So let’s do some coronavirus math. Six of the main conditions that put you at risk for dying are significantly benefitted by a higher-fat lower-carb diet. That’s in the published research.(1,2,3,4,5,6)
Those conditions are made worse with a sugar-burning metabolism and better with a fat-burning one. A sugar-burning metabolism is one that predominantly runs on starch, sugary carbs. You’re constantly hunger because your body can’t store much sugar.
And a lower-carb, higher-fat diet is the exact prescription for developing a fat-burning metabolism. Your hunger is in check because your metabolism is able to burn off body fat for energy, so you don’t eat as much and stay healthier.
So just to be clear, the very same diet that helps you lose weight, reverse or stall the progression of diabetes, and lower your risk for heart disease is the very same diet that will help you survive a challenge like like COVID-19, because it will reduce the likelihood of having the very underlying conditions that spell disaster if you get the virus.(7,8)
How A Fat-Burning Metabolism Supports Your Immune System
A fat-burning metabolism supports immunity in at least two ways.
For one thing, a fat burning metabolism produces more energy in the form of something called Adenosine Triphosphate – ATP – which is the “currency” of energy in the cell and is needed for every action you take consciously or unconsciously, from blinking your eyes to mounting an immune system defense.
For another, a sugar-burning metabolism creates far more toxic by-products, probably because sugar is itself such a toxic and inflammatory component of the diet. Those metabolic by-products (like free radicals) cause oxidative damage; and you’re depending on your body’s store of antioxidants to put out the sugar-caused fires. Using your body’s antioxidants to clean up the damage of a self-made problem like sugar consumption means you have less antioxidants left to fight off viral invaders and clean-up their damage.
All of which is to say that there was never a better time to switch your dietary fuel to the high-octane kind – healthy fat. The same fat you’ve wrongly been told to stay away from for decades.**
You’d never put sugar in the gas tank of a jeep going out to fight for your freedom in a war. So don’t put it in your body’s gas tank when your immune system is going out to fight for your health and survival.
After all, your immune system exists – like the army – to be mobilized in case of emergency. Like the army, you want the immune system to fight its best fight.
Neither army tanks nor human bodies run well on sugar.
Eat healthy fat and you’ll build a metabolism that runs on it. You’ll feel better. Sleep deeper. And have more energy.
Plus, it’s a great way to get your immune system firing on all cylinders. Exactly what we all need right now.
*Dr, Douglas Triffon, head of Lipid Clinics at Scripps, and Dr. Eric Westman head of obesity clinic at Duke. (Personal communications)