Obesity Triggers Autoimmune Diseases Like Crohn’s Disease, Study Says

Obesity Triggers Autoimmune Diseases Like Crohn’s Disease, Study Says

A recent study published in Autoimmunity Reviews by Prof. Yehuda Shoenfeld highlights the major role that obesity plays, due to adipokines, in triggering and also prolonging autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis result from the immune system attacking its own body. These conditions affect 5 to 20 percent of people worldwide. According to Dr. Shoenfeld, the Laura Schwarz-Kipp Chair for Research of Autoimmune Diseases at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Head of Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases at Chaim Sheba Medical Center, obesity triggers a breakdown of the body’s protective self-tolerance, which creates the ideal opportunity to this sort of diseases to evolve. Once the self-tolerance becomes deregulated, a pro-inflammatory scenario is generated, which worsens these diseases’ progression and inhibits the success of treatments.

“We’ve been aware of a long list of causes of autoimmune disorders—infections, smoking, pesticides, lack of vitamins, and so forth. But in last five years, a new factor has emerged that cannot be ignored: obesity (…) According to the World Health Organization, approximately 35% of the global community is overweight or obese, and more than ten autoimmune diseases are known to be associated with increased weight. So it’s critical to investigate obesity’s involvement in the pathology of such diseases,” noted Professor Shoenfeld in a press release.

Adipokines Are The Ones To Blame

Shoenfeld and his colleagues from Tel Hashomer hospital conducted a systematic review of 329 global studies that connected obesity, adipokines, and immune-related diseases and conditions. Adipokines are compounds secreted by the fat tissue itself and are involved in several physiological functions, including the immune response. Their role can be related to multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type-1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and Hashimoto thyroiditis.

Professor Shoenfeld emphasized: “According to our study and the clinical and experimental data reviewed, the involvement of adipokines in the pathogenesis of these autoimmune diseases is clear (…) We were able to detail the metabolic and immunological activities of the main adipokines featured in the development and prognosis of several immune-related conditions.”

Vitamin D May Be The Solution

Several studies with mice with multiple sclerosis and on a diet rich in unsaturated fats showed that there was a vitamin D deficiency that resulted from obesity. Once the lack of vitamin D was corrected, paralysis and kidney deterioration improved.

“Modern life makes us all prone to Vitamin D deficiency. We live in labs, offices, and cars. When Vitamin D is secreted in fat tissue, it is not released into the body, which needs Vitamin D to function properly. Since Vitamin D supplements are very cheap and have no side effects, they are an ideal compound that should be prescribed to anyone at risk of a compromised immune system,” said Shoenfeld. “If a patient is at risk, he or she should be told to do everything in his or her power to maintain a healthy weight,” he added.