Scientists believe that high-processed food diets are increasing the number of people developing autoimmune illnesses around the world.
People are suffering because their immune systems can no longer detect the difference between healthy cells and an attacking virus or bacterium, according to experts at the Francis Crick Institute in London.
Autoimmune illnesses, in which the body attacks its own tissue and organs, are on the rise, and James Lee and Carola Vinuesa are conducting two study groups at the institute to try to figure out why.
Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis are all examples of autoimmune disorders. The immune system's wires are crossed in each case, and healthy tissue is targeted instead of infectious pathogens.
It is currently estimated that the global prevalence of autoimmune illnesses is increasing by 3% to 9% per year. Most scientists believe that environmental factors are playing a significant role in this rise.
"Human genetics hasn't altered over the past few decades," Lee said. "So something must be changing in the outside world in a way that is increasing our predisposition to autoimmune disease."
Vinuesa, who formerly worked at the Australian National University, supported this idea. She cited dietary changes that were taking place as more and more countries adopted Western-style diets and people ate more fast food.
Both scientists emphasized that individual susceptibilities play a role in getting such illnesses, which include celiac disease and lupus, which causes inflammation and swelling and can harm multiple organs, including the heart.
There isn't much we can do to slow the global expansion of fast-food franchises. Instead, scientists are attempting to comprehend the fundamental genetic pathways that underpin autoimmune illnesses and predispose some people to them while others are not.
With the development of tools that now allow scientists to pinpoint minuscule DNA changes among vast numbers of people, this work is achievable. To detect common genetic patterns among persons with an autoimmune disease, this method is used.
According to Lee and Vinuesa, such research is at the heart of their efforts, which attempt to figure out how these many genetic pathways work and decipher the many different sorts of diseases that doctors are now studying.
Lee further emphasized that the rising number of cases of autoimmune illnesses around the world meant that innovative therapies and drugs were more needed than ever before.
At present, scientists and doctors have found no cure for autoimmune diseases.