A study out of Ireland has found that obese children have fewer Natural Killer Cells.
A new study out of Ireland says that obesity in children compromises their immune system, making it difficult for them to fight cancers, type-2 diabetes, and other diseases.

The National Children's Research Center and the Children's Medical Research Foundation in Ireland worked together and looked at 100 children who were six- to seventeen-years-old. Half of the children in the study were considered a 'healthy' weight, while the other half were considered, 'obese.'

Related: Possible Link Between Dual-Income Families And Childhood Obesity

Dr. Andrew Hogan is a lead author of the study who said that they found a tremendous difference in the number of natural killer (NK) cells in the body of the obese children. In those children, the NK cells were in much lower number and frequency. NK cells are imperative to the immune system, as they look for and attack infected and cancerous cells.

In patients who have lower numbers of functional NK cells, larger numbers of recurring viral infections and certain cancers have been noted.

Dr. Hogan said that in children who were obese, levels of NK cells were almost 50% lower than the levels found in those children at a 'normal,' weight. Additionally, those cells present were only about half as effective when it came to getting rid of tumor cells from the body.

He says that though this is troubling, there is good news in that research says that there is hope for reparation to immune systems and NK cell levels can be balanced to healthy levels when children return to healthy weights.

Related: Study: Limited Screen Time, and Regular Sleep and Meal Time Reduce Obesity

In Ireland, almost a third of the nation's children are overweight and according to data from the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration, Ireland is 58th of 200 countries for its rates of obese young people. In 1975, barely one percent of children in Ireland were considered obese; now, nine percent of girls and ten percent of boys are considered overweight.

Professor Donal O'Shea is the HSE's lead director on obesity and the co-author of the study, and warned that legislators in Ireland need to take note of these statistics in order to protect the children and adults of Ireland.

O'Shea says that more efforts to prevent obesity have to be implemented or Ireland cannot sustain a healthcare system that will be able to accommodate what is to come in the next 20 years.