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Better immunity is another reason to build and maintain muscle

Steve Harvey just said something only mildly amusing, yet every single contestant - including you - laughs as if he’s Robin Williams at his improvisational best. (Laughing on cue is part of the phoniness found in every “Family Feud” episode.)

Harvey then asks a question that requires five answers: “Name a reason to build muscle.”

You hit the buzzer and blurt out: “To build strength.” Your family hoots and hollers and high-fives (precisely in the way they were instructed to) because “survey says” “BUILD STRENGTH/ STAMINA” is the No. 1 answer.

Your family quickly knocks out the next three: “CONTROL WEIGHT/ BODY FAT 2,” “IMPROVE CONFIDENCE / MENTAL STATE 3,” “SUPPORT JOINTS 4” - but strikes out on the fifth. The Campbells also answer incorrectly, however, and your family gets the points.

So what is that last reason?

Eventually, Harvey calls for the big board to show (after your family hugs and happy dances for the mandatory time) what a single respondent said: “AID IMMUNITY 5.” The response came from a really smart guy in Fairfield, Ohio who felt the need to explain his answer to the secret surveyor.

“The more muscle you have,” he said, “the stronger your immune system.”


While the opening story is clearly fabricated, the really smart guy in Fairfield and his words aren’t. John Parrillo penned them for an article that appears in the December 2020 issue of his magazine, “John Parrillo’s Performance Press.”

Parrillo, who has been training bodybuilders and producing state-of-the-art supplements for 30-plus years, supports his statement by citing research published in June 2020 issue of the journal Science Advances. While researchers have long known that T-cells battle viruses that attack your body, lead author Jingxia Wu and her cohorts learned something more in this study: the importance of muscle for T-cell success when the battle drags on.

In an ongoing battle against a chronic disease like cancer, COPD, diabetes, arthritis, and asthma, the T-cells eventually lose their full functionality and become less effective. But when the researchers gave laboratory mice a virus often used to simulate disease and focused their attention on the mice’s muscles, they observed the release of interleukin-15.

It’s a protein that permits communication between cells, and its release caused a type of T-cell not quite ready to fight to hide in the muscles.

These T-cells eventually emerged and fought when the frontline T-cells became exhausted. The use of reinforcements, according to Wu in a Science Daily article, “enables the immune system to fight the virus continuously over a long period.”

Though this has yet to be studied in humans, Wu feels confident enough to conclude in the Science Advances article “that skeletal muscle antagonizes T cell exhaustion.” Parrillo translates this doublespeak in his magazine’s January issue as “MUSCLE IS IMMUNITY” since more muscle means more space for the T-cells not ready to fight to hide. (And yes, he opted for all caps just like the “Family Feud” big board.)

Parrillo initially tackled this topic because of COVID-19 and later writes that the role of the immune system in the battle against it has been “ignored by the government and top medical advisors.”

Being “ignored” is one thing. Being ignorant is another. Parrillo suggests in “The I-Word,” the second of the aforementioned articles, that most medicos are either ignorant or don’t want mainstream America to know how muscle aids immunity.

Hence, you’re reading about it here. Throughout the years, I’ve argued that everyone from 8 to 80 - in some way, shape, or form - should lift weights. While I hope you do, statistics show most Americans don’t.

In August of 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed “on a typical day” only 8.9 percent of Americans 15 or older lift weights. In 2013, the CDC estimated, based on 450,000 responses, that two-thirds of American adults don’t do the minimum amount of suggested muscle-strengthening exercise.

Now if these statistics fail to motivate you, consider what the New York Times reported on Feb. 18. “Life expectancy in the U.S. fell by a full year in early 2020, the largest drop since WWII” - along with the prediction that the loss will be even greater for the full year.

While this is certainly “a sign of the pandemic’s toll,” it’s important to know that you can do more to keep yourself from getting COVID-19 besides wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and disinfect the things you come in contact with constantly.

You can add or maintain muscle.

Before the pandemic occurred, study upon study showed a link between maintaining strength in your muscles and life expectancy - even if your muscles lose size as you age. One such study, published in the January 2006 issue of The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, concluded that muscle strength in the hands and legs “is more important than quantity [of muscle] in estimating mortality risk.”