A team of researchers at the Tel Aviv University report the role of obesity as a major risk factor triggering and maintaining autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s Disease and multiple sclerosis. The study was published in Autoimmunity Reviews.
In autoimmune diseases, the immune system reacts against the body — a condition that is estimated to affect 5 to 20% of the global population. Obesity, the authors report, is a condition that disrupts the body homeostasis leading to a hyper-reactive state that determines the onset of autoimmune diseases and, by generating a pro-inflammatory state, it supports its further development.
Prof. Yehuda 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, Tel Hashomer noted, “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.”
The authors performed a comprehensive review analysis on the relation between obesity and autoimmune diseases, by analyzing 329 published studies. They focused on the role of obesity and associated inflammatory signals, such as adipokines, and several autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, type-1 diabetes, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriatic arthritis, and Hashimoto thyroiditis. They found a link between the onset of autoimmune disorders and adipokines.
Prof. Shoenfeld added, “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.”
By performing experiments in obese mice with multiple slecorsis, the authors observed that obesity in these mice was associated with reduced levels of Vitamin D. By restoring Vitamin D levels back to normal, the authors improved mice survival and prognosis.
Prof. Shoenfeld commented, “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.”