According to a study by scientists from the University of Bonn, the immune system can react to instant food in much the same way as a bacterial infection.
To find out, scientists spent an experiment on mice fed the equivalent of a “western diet” high in saturated fat, sugar and salt for a month, without any fresh fruit, vegetables, or fiber. The response of the body of the mice was an increase in immune cells in the blood, that is, the reaction is similar to that as if they were struck by a microbial infection.
“An unhealthy diet led to an unexpected increase in the number of certain immune cells in the blood of mice, especially granulocytes and monocytes,” – Anette Christ, co-author of the study.
These white blood cells pointed out to scientists certain genes that were activated by the diet. The performed genomic analysis confirmed this assumption. Moreover, it was found that the genes responsible for the formation of immune cells have a kind of memory to fight against biological attack.
In other words, once the body began to respond to the fast food diet, returning to a healthy diet was not enough to reverse the process — the mice still had increased granulocyte and monocyte counts.
“The innate immune system has been found to be in the form of memory. After infection, the body’s defenses remain in a state of anxiety in order to respond more quickly to a new attack, ”- Eike Lutz, co-author of the study.
The scientists explain that the mice were selected for the study because of their genetic similarity to humans. If the same reaction occurs in our bodies, then this is further evidence of the link between an unhealthy diet and health problems such as type II diabetes, obesity and heart problems, the authors of the work explain.
This study was first published in the Cell journal in January 2018.