Western diet is changing the gut bacteria of developed nations, which is causing an increase in allergy

The incidence of food allergy is rising at such a rate in the developed world that it cannot be attributed to genetic variation alone. The Committee on Immunology and Department of Pathology, University of Chicago, Illinois, USA, has looked at the increased incidence of anaphylactic responses to food, and at the environmental factors that may be contributing to this increase.

Advances in vaccination and sanitation have reduced the incidence of intestinal infections, and high fat diets, the use of antibiotics, Caesarian births, formula feeding of infants have all been implicated in changing the formulation of our gut bacteria that has evolved over millennia. The evolution of our gut bacteria and the microbes inside our intestines play an important part in all our bodily functions, and most importantly plays a central role in the development and maturation of our immune system.

Researchers from the University of Chicago suggest that the changes in our gut have changed our immune system to impair immunoglobulin A (IgA) production, reduce the number of regulatory T cells and skewed basic immune responses to create allergic reactions to innocuous substances such as foods.

Source: Seminars in Immunopathology

First published in September 2012

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