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Obesity clearly linked to Crohn's and other autoimmune diseases

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Obesity the newest factor to add to list of risk factors for Crohn's and other autoimmune diseases

New research suggests obesity could be a major contributor to Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases that are the result of the the immune system attacking the body. The result of the investigation shows obesity could also prolong the effects of autoimmune diseases that also appear to be triggered by additional environmental factors.


What the researchers from Tel Aviv University found is that obesity creates a "pro-inflammatory" environment that can trigger Crohn's disease, MS and other autoimmune diseases in addition to hampering treatment of the diseases.

Obesity creates optimal environment for autoimmune diseases

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 said in a press release that obesity, along with other factors such as smoking, pesticides, infections and more, cannot be ignored as a risk factor for autoimmune diseases.

The role of obesity as a contributor to severe and debilitating autoimmune diseases has emerged within the past five years.

"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," Shoenfeld added.

Obesity destroys the body's ability to protect itself and sets up an environment that makes autoimmune diseases worse.

A clear link between compounds in fat tissue and autoimmune diseases

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The research team conducted a search of 329 studies showing a clear link between substances in fat tissue known as adipokines and autoimmune diseases.

Some, but not a complete list of autoimmune diseases other than Crohn's and MS include:

  • Celiac disease
  • Autoimmune Hepatitis C
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Sj√∂gren syndrome
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Psoriasis

Prof. Shoenfeld said: "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," adding that the link is clear.

What can help?

A note from the authors who also explored the role of vitamin D and MS outcomes in mice is that low levels can promote obesity. Shoenfeld notes many people are vitamin D deficient from modern day lifestyles of sitting in offices, cars and labs.

In mice, correcting obesity related vitamin D deficiency reversed paralysis and kidney deterioration associated with MS.

The suggestion is to ensure you're getting enough Vitamin D in addition to practicing a healthy lifestyle to control your weight. Clinicians are advised to direct patients with autoimmune diseases to do everything possible to maintain a healthy weight.

The finding, according to the Tel Aviv researchers, clearly shows obesity can trigger and complicate diseases like IBD, which include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis as the two most common forms, MS and more.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons



The body attacking the immune system??? Surely you mean the immune system attacking the body? This occurs when the immune system does not recognise the body because of the level of toxicity.
Yes, the words were indeed reversed. I've corrected. Thank you Hans.
Hi Kathleen. It shows I am reading the articles. Always interesting!
That struck me too! Again, thank you so much.
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