Fast Food Makes The Immune System More Aggressive in The Long Term


Source: University of Bonn

Summary: A recent study by the researchers showed that the immune system reacts similarly to a high fat and high-calorie diet as to a bacterial infection.


Wrong nutrition can have dramatic consequences. The average life expectancy has steadily increased in Western countries in the recent years. But the trend is being broken as individuals born today will live on average shorter lives than their parents. Unhealthy diets and too little exercise are main the reasons for this. A recent study by the researchers from the University of Bonn showed that the immune system reacts similarly to a high fat and high-calorie diet as to a bacterial infection. Unhealthy food seems to make the body’s defenses more aggressive in the long term. Even long after switching to a healthy diet, inflammation toward innate immune stimulation is more pronounced. These long-term changes may be involved in the development of arteriosclerosis and diabetes, diseases linked to Western diet consumption. The study results were published in the journal Cell.

Western Diet - high in fat, high in sugar, and low in fiber

Prof. Dr. Eicke Latz and Dr. Anette Christ from the Institute for Innate Immunity of the University of Bonn investigated this question in a study. Credit: Volker Lannert/Uni Bonn

To report the study, researchers fed mice with western diet (high in fat, high in sugar, and low in fiber) for a month. The animals consequently developed a strong inflammatory response throughout the body, almost like after infection with dangerous bacteria. The researchers were able to identify “fast food sensor” in immune cells. They found genetic evidence of the involvement of a so-called inflammasome (a multiprotein intracellular complex that detects pathogenic microorganisms). In addition to this, the western diet also changes the way in which the genetic information is packaged that may result in epigenetic changes of the DNA. The immune system consequently reacts even to small stimuli with stronger inflammatory responses. These inflammatory responses can in turn accelerate the development of vascular diseases or type 2 diabetes.

Prof. Dr. Eicke Latz said, “These findings therefore have important societal relevance”, “The foundations of a healthy diet need to become a much more prominent part of education than they are at present. Only in this way can we immunize children at an early stage against the temptations of the food industry. Children have a choice of what they eat every day. We should enable them to make conscious decisions regarding their dietary habits.”


More Information: Anette Christ et al, “Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming”, Cell(2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.12.013


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