Obesity can trigger autoimmune diseases

11 November 2014

Obesity can increase a person's risk of suffering from autoimmune diseases like Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis (MS), a new study has found.

These conditions are triggered by the immune system attacking the body rather than fighting off predatory invaders and affects up to a fifth of the global population. Published in Autoimmunity Reviews, the research found that obesity can play a major role in triggering and prolonging these autoimmune diseases.

Led by Professor Yehuda Shoenfeld at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and head of the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases at Chaim Sheba Medical Center, the study found that obesity leads to a breakdown of the body's protective self-tolerance. This forms the ideal environment for autoimmune diseases, and generates a pro-inflammatory environment likely to worsen the disease's progression and hinder its treatment.

"We've been aware of a long list of causes of autoimmune disorders - infections, smoking, pesticides, lack of vitamins, and so forth. But in the last five years, a new factor has emerged that cannot be ignored: obesity," said Professor Shoenfeld. 

He added that it is "critical" to further research this as more than a third of people are overweight or obese and more than ten autoimmune diseases have been associated with increased weight. 

Posted by Philip Briggs​


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