Effect of body weight and caloric restriction on serum complement proteins, including Factor D/adipsin: studies in anorexia nervosa and obesity

Clin Exp Immunol. 1997 Jun;108(3):507-15. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2249.1997.3921287.x.


Complement plays important roles in host immune defences, and recent studies suggest that adipose tissue is an important site of production for some complement proteins. Starvation has been associated with low complement levels, but studied populations have usually had concomitant opportunistic infections or other conditions which might affect complement levels. To determine the impact of body weight and changes in body weight on serum complement, we investigated levels of complement proteins in otherwise healthy patients with a wide range of body weights, including patients with anorexia nervosa before and after treatment, obese dieters before and after weight loss, and normal weight controls. We found that complement proteins of the alternative pathway (C3, B, and D), alternative pathway haemolytic activity (AP50) and the inhibitors H and I were low in starving anorectics and normalized with weight gain. C3a levels were comparable in anorectics at low weight and after weight gain, indicating that low serum complement levels were attributable to hypoproduction and not complement cascade activation with consumption. Further, levels of C3, B, AP50, H and I, but not D, were higher than controls in obese patients and decreased toward normal after weight loss. Overall, percentage of ideal body weight, changes in body weight, and serum transferrin were each highly correlated with serum levels of complement proteins. We conclude that levels of alternative pathway complement components are determined in part by factors that influence body weight and by weight changes, possibly due to changes in production in adipose tissue or at other sites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / immunology*
  • Body Weight*
  • Complement Factor D
  • Complement Inactivator Proteins / analysis
  • Complement Pathway, Alternative
  • Complement System Proteins / analysis*
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / immunology*
  • Serine Endopeptidases / blood*


  • Complement Inactivator Proteins
  • Complement System Proteins
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • CFD protein, human
  • Complement Factor D