Dr. Alex Jimenez, El Paso's Chiropractor
I hope you have enjoyed our blog posts on various health, nutritional and injury related topics. Please don't hesitate in calling us or myself if you have questions when the need to seek care arises. Call the office or myself. Office 915-850-0900 - Cell 915-540-8444 Great Regards. Dr. J

Immunonutrition, COVID-19, and Obesity. Part 1.

This current year, we are still dealing with two global pandemics: obesity and, despite the new hope that vaccination brings, COVID-19. Previous literature has reported that obesity, characterized by elevated fat mass, can negatively impact immune system functionality. Consequently, this factor increases the risk of infection and complicates the recovery due to the high amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines secreted by the adipocytes. New hypotheses have risen from this phenomenon, and between them, the use of immunonutrition is postulated to support immune function and decrease the inflammatory response. Furthermore, the use of pharmaconutrients like glutamine, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, arginine, selenium, Vitamin D, probiotics, and Vitamin E can contribute to improving outcomes in COVID-19 obese patients.

COVID-19, obesity and immune response

As stated earlier, obesity characterizes by an excess of body fat. Also, it is a multifactorial disease in which endocrine, socioeconomic, lifestyle habits, nutritional intake, and genetic factors complicate this condition. 

The basis of obesity condition is “adiposopathy.” The definition of adiposopathy is the pathological dysfunction of fatty tissue, both anatomical and functional. Furthermore, this dysfunctional adipose tissue occurs in the presence of adipocyte hypertrophy and visceral fat accumulation. In turn, this results in an overproduction of pro-inflammatory components contributing to the genesis of metabolic disorders. 

Nevertheless, this pro-inflammatory milieu also affects adipocyte’s immune mediation. Indeed, adipose tissue has the potential to manage adaptive and innate immune responses. In the context of obesity, the inflammatory milieu promotes a macrophage increment in the adipose tissue. Consequently, this alters adipocyte function, stimulating the secretion of inflammatory mediators, activating an elevated immune response, and a decrease of protective anti-inflammatory agents.

  • COVID-19:

The presence of COVID-19 potentiates the cytokine storm, and it has been extensively reported. Indeed, more than 50 adipokines are present in this condition. Within them, leptin, adiponectin, IL-6, and TNF-a promote 


Leptin is an adipocyte-produced hormone that controls energy metabolism by multiple regulatory effects. As the leptin receptor expresses overall the immune system, this hormone connects the metabolic and immune systems. In obesity and overnutrition, leptin promotes the inflammatory state, while in undernutrition, leptin suppresses the immune response.

Leptin resistance leads to hyperleptinemia and insulin resistance, which results in disruption of the T-cell function leading to suppression of the infection response.


IL-6 has a pleiotropic effect, as it can be beneficial in lean subjects acting as an anti-inflammatory cytokine or pro-inflammatory in obese patients. Recent studies have focused on treating SARS-CoV-2 with IL-6 inhibition strategies. However, more studies need to be done to confirm its function in COVID-19 treatment.


Macrophages and other immune cells secrete TNF-a in the acute phase of inflammation. The obese patients diagnosed with COVID-19 show elevated concentrations of TNF-a, IL-2, and IL-6. Therefore, targeted strategies to decrease these inflammatory cytokines are needed to improve COVID-19 outcomes.


On the contrary to all the pro-inflammatory factors mentioned before, increased adiponectin levels can be favorable for the patient. Adiponectin is an anti-inflammatory adipokine. Its levels seem to rise in the presence of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19. 

Furthermore, adiponectin’s immune effect relies upon its capacity to reduce innate and adaptive immune cell proliferation by:

  • Blocking the production of pro-inflammatory factors: TNF-a, IL-6, and IL-2.
  • Promoting the secretion of IL-10, an anti-inflammatory cytokine.

The supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids promotes the protective effects of adiponectin on the patient’s diet. In this specific case, improving outcomes is once again associated with the patient’s diet quality. 

Another interesting immunonutrition application is probiotics. Indeed, probiotics and glutamine supplementation improves gut permeability and could potentially enhance anthropometric measures by lowering adiposity. 

The interaction between the metabolic and immune axis relies heavily on the quantity of fatty tissue. We never thought a global infectious pandemic would hit our community this hard. Nevertheless, it left us with a high level of awareness of how anthropometric measures can interact with the immune system and leave us exposed to new infections. The urgency in which we need to change our lifestyle is undeniable. However, if the condition presents, we can improve outcomes with immunonutrition. – Ana Paola Rodríguez Arciniega, MS


Di Renzo, Laura et al. “COVID-19: Is there a role for immunonutrition in obese patient?.” Journal of translational medicine vol. 18,1 415. 7 Nov. 2020, doi:10.1186/s12967-020-02594-4

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The information herein is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional. Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the musculoskeletal system’s injuries or disorders. Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.* Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request. We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 Read More…

Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, CTG* 

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com
phone: 915-850-0900
Licensed in Texas & New Mexico