Junk food, immune system tilt


The junk food sends the immune system. How and why, he explains A recent study by the University of Bonn. (1) Acute inflammation, DNA alterations, acceleration of diseases such as atherosclerosis and diabetes.

Junk food, immune system tilt

The immune system

reacts to a


imbalanced-due to excess sugar, fat, and calories-as it would to a bacterial infection.

This activates a strong inflammatory reaction, which continues even after restoring balance in the diet.


, in the long term, can lead to the development of atherosclerosis and diabetes, diseases whose occurrence has in fact increased significantly in recent decades.

The recent study ‘

Global Burden of Disease

had already blamed unbalanced diets for 20 percent of premature deaths, following analysis conducted in 195 countries from 1990 to 2015. Research from the University of Bonn may help explain why.

Junk food, research from the University of Bonn.

The University of Bonn research-which will soon be published in the journal Cell-involved research groups in the Netherlands, the United States, Norway and Germany.

The scientists

subjected mice, for one month, to a ‘Western diet’ of our times, high in sugar and fat, as well as low in fiber.

The unhealthy diet led to an unexpected increase in the number of certain immune cells in the blood of mice, particularly granulocytes and monocytes,’ explains researcher Anette Christ.

The subsequent ‘
genomic studies
showed that the Western diet had activated a large number of genes in progenitor cells. The genes involved included those responsible for proliferation and maturation‘, adds Prof. Dr. Joachim Schultze of the Life & Medical Sciences Institute (LIMES, University of Bonn) and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE).

thus induces the immune system to activate an aggressive reaction, from which acute inflammation results. And despite subsequent restoration of a balanced diet, immune cells and their precursors remain active. Because the junk food attack genetically reprogrammed many of the cells involved.

The ‘sensor
‘ in immune cells

Only recently has it been discovered That the innate immune system has a form of memory‘, explains Prof. Eicke Latz, director of the Institute for Innate Immunity at the University of Bonn and a DZNE scientist. ‘After an infection, the body’s defenses remain in a kind of alert state so that they can respond more quickly to a new attack‘.

In the study, this process was not triggered by a bacteria, but by an unhealthy diet. And scientists were also able to identify the ‘ junk-foodsensor’ responsible for immune activation.

A complex intracellular signaling process (so-called inflammasome, NLRP3) recognizes infectious agents and other noxious substances-as in this case, junk food-and releases highly inflammatory messengers.

A change in genetic information is also triggered. ‘The inflammasome triggers such epigenetic changes,’ Prof. Latz continued. ‘The immune system reacts accordingly to even small stimuli with stronger inflammatory responses.’

Junk food, health hazards

These inflammatory responses may in turn accelerate the development of vascular disease or type 2 diabetes. In atherosclerosis for example, the inflammatory reaction directly contributes to plaque growth, as newly activated immune cells constantly migrate into the walls of the altered vessels. And when the plaques become too large they can burst, causing blood clotting and obstruction of blood vessels that can lead to strokes and heart attacks.

These findings have social relevance
important,’ Prof. Latz further explains. ‘The basics of a healthy diet must become a much more important part of education than they currently are. 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 each day. We should enable them to make informed decisions about their eating habits‘.

Le lobby by Big Food, meanwhile, have succeeded in blocking the introduction of nutrient profiles, which the European Commission should have introduced 9 years ago (!) to prevent the use of claim nutritional and health benefits on the junk-food. With the complicity unfortunately also of Italian lobbyists and politicians. Shame!

Dario Dongo


(1) Anette Christ, Patrick Günther, Mario A.R. Lauterbach , Peter Duewell, Debjani Biswas, Karin Pelka, Claus J. Scholz, Marije Oosting, Kristian Haendler, Kevin Baßler, Kathrin Klee, Jonas Schulte-Schrepping, Thomas Ulas, Simone J.C.F.M. Moorlag, Vinod Kumar, Min Hi Park, Leo A.B. Joosten, Laszlo A. Groh, Niels P. Riksen, Terje Espevik, Andreas Schlitzer, Yang Li, Michael L. Fitzgerald, Mihai G. Netea, Joachim L. Schultze und Eicke Latz: ”Western diet triggers NLRP3-dependent innate immune reprogramming‘, in Cell, 11.1.2018, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.12.013

(2) Latz and Schultze are members of the ‘ImmunoSensation‘ excellence group, which studies the innate immune system. Latz is considered a leader in the field of innate immunity and was awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize for his work in December 2017. This is considered one of the most prestigious scientific awards in Germany.

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.