The effects of a high-fat/high-carbohydrate meal on leukocyte populations in adults with chronic spinal cord injury

Spinal Cord Ser Cases. 2021 Jun 8;7(1):49. doi: 10.1038/s41394-021-00412-7.


Study design: Secondary analysis of aggregated case series data.

Objectives: To examine the effects of a high-fat/high-carbohydrate meal on leukocyte populations in adults with a chronic SCI.

Setting: University-based laboratories in British Columbia, Canada.

Methods: Ten individuals (M = 9) with a traumatic SCI (>1-year post-injury; M = 15.5 years; n = 2 sensory complete, n = 7 motor complete) participated in this study. Participants arrived fasted (≥12 h) prior to both the control (quiet sitting, no food/drink) and experimental meal conditions (high-fat/high-carb meal: 880 kcal, 52 g fat, 73 g carbohydrates, 29 g protein). Blood samples were taken in the fasted state and at 120-min post-meal/baseline in both conditions. Immune cell counts were assessed using multi-color flow cytometry.

Results: A significant time × condition interaction effect was seen in CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ T cells as well as CD56+ and CD3+/CD56+ natural killer (NK) cells (p < 0.05). CD14+/CD16+ monocytes and CD19+ B cells approached a significant time × condition interaction (p < 0.07). A main effect of time was observed in CD19+ B cells (p < 0.05). Cell counts for T-lymphocytes and NK cells followed the general trend of an increase in the control condition from baseline to 120-min with no change observed following the experimental meal condition.

Conclusions: Following the HFHC meal, immune cells did not show the same general increase observed following the control condition. Future research is needed to determine if there are any potential consequences of these immune cell responses in immunosuppressed populations and if other factors (e.g., diurnal variation) might influence immune cell response.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • B-Lymphocytes
  • Carbohydrates
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries*


  • Carbohydrates