Whether you love them or hate them, new research shows that tattoos might actually strengthen your immunological responses ... if you get enough of them, that is. Much in the same way that your muscles feel sore when you first start going to the gym, getting a tattoo can be exhausting, with the body's defenses lowered by the stress of the experience. But just as you'll feel less fatigued the more you exercise, the more tattoos you get, the more your body becomes able to deal with the experience, and the stronger its response becomes.

That's what the new research, conducted by scientists at the University of Alabama, has found. The team worked with tattoo businesses in Tucaloosa and Leeds, recording the amount of time patients were tattooed, and taking saliva samples before and after sessions.

Back in the lab, the team analyzed the samples, measuring levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A and a stress hormone that's known that suppresses immune response, known as cortisol. The results showed that increased stress levels when getting a tattoo lead to a significant reduction in immunoglobulin A levels. However, the more tattoos that any one individual received, the antibody decrease became less and less pronounced.

According to the researchers, the more often a patient gets a tattoo, the higher the stress threshold becomes before an immunological response is triggered. In a basic sense, immunologically speaking, the body gets stronger.

The topic of the research might seem a little out of the ordinary, but to researcher Dr. Christopher Lynn, that's exactly the point, with the unusual research topic helping to catch the attention of his students.

"The trick is to find ways to study catchy concepts that are also important," said Lynn. "Nobody had done anything like this tattooing study, looking at the potential benefits from a biological perspective."

The research was published online in the American Journal of Human Biology.