Two researchers recently analyzed the effects of processed food on the resistance of the intestine to toxins, bacteria, and other nutritional and non-nutritional elements, and found that processed, industrial food may increase the chances of a person developing autoimmune diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The findings were published in the journal Autoimmunity Reviews, under the title “Changes in intestinal tight junction permeability associated with industrial food additives explain the rising incidence of autoimmune disease”.
“In recent decades there has been a decrease in incidence of infectious diseases, but at the same time there has been an increase in the incidence of allergic diseases, cancer and autoimmune diseases,” noted the study’s co-author Prof. Aaron Lerner, from the Technion Faculty of Medicine and Carmel Medical Center in Israel, in a news release. “Since the weight of genetic changes is insignificant in such a short period, the scientific community is searching for the causes at the environmental level.”
The team studied the effects of processed food on the intestines and their possible contribution to the development of autoimmune diseases, discovering a link to more than 100 diseases, from lupus to celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, autoimmune hepatitis or even type 1 diabetes. Focused on the substantial increase in the daily use of industrial food and food additives to improve texture, shelf life, smell or taste, among others, researchers found “a significant circumstantial connection between the increased use of processed foods and the incidence of autoimmune diseases.”
Many autoimmune conditions are thought to result from damage to the functioning of the tight-junctions that cover the intestinal mucosa. These tight-junctions normally protect against allergens, bacteria, toxins, and carcinogens, shielding the person’s immune system; however, if damaged (which can also be called ‘leaky gut’), it can lead to the development of autoimmune diseases.
The study further identified at least seven common food additives that weaken the tight-junctions, and investigators advised that autoimmune disease patients or anyone who has a family background linked to such conditions should these additives. These additives include: glucose (sugars), sodium (salt), fat solvents (emulsifiers), organic acids, gluten, microbial transglutaminase (an enzyme that works as a food protein ‘glue’), and nanometric particles.
“Control and enforcement agencies such as the FDA stringently supervise the pharmaceutical industry, but the food additive market remains unsupervised enough,” commented Prof. Lerner. “We hope this study and similar studies increase awareness about the dangers inherent in industrial food additives, and raise awareness about the need for control over them.”