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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Are Industrial Food Additives to Blame for Soaring Rates of Autoimmune Disease?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 01/19/2016 - Cases of autoimmune diseases are on the rise, and mirror the expansion of industrial food processing and increased use of food additives. The intestinal epithelial barrier, with its intercellular tight junction, controls the balance between tolerance and immunity to non-self-antigens.

    Photo: CC--Vox EfxRecently, a team of researchers set out to assess the role of tight junction dysfunction in the pathogenesis of autoimmune disease.

    Researchers Aaron Lerner and Torsten Matthias are associated with the Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition Unit, Carmel Medical Center, B, Rappaport School of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Michal in Haifa, Israel, and the Aesku Kipp Institute in Wendelsheim, Germany.

    Numerous common industrial food additives increase tight junction leakage. These include glucose, salt, emulsifiers, organic solvents, gluten, microbial transglutaminase, and nanoparticles, widely and increasingly used in industrial food production.

    According to manufacturers, these additives improve food quality. However, all of the aforementioned additives increase intestinal permeability by breaching the integrity of tight junction paracellular transfer.

    So why is this a problem?

    Well, it turns out that tight junction dysfunction is common in multiple autoimmune diseases, and the central part played by the tight junction in autoimmune diseases development is widely described.

    The researchers hypothesize that commonly used industrial food additives undermine human epithelial barrier function, which increases intestinal permeability through the opened tight junction, resulting in entry of foreign immunogenic antigens and activation of the autoimmune cascade, and the development of autoimmune conditions, such as celiac disease.

    The team is calling for additional research on the connections between food additives exposure, intestinal permeability, and autoimmunity interplay to expand our knowledge of the common mechanisms associated with autoimmune progression.

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    I choose foods for myself and my family that include as few necessary additives as possible. Unfortunately, there's a chemical industry out there that makes plenty of money creating additives to put in our foods, and most people don't have on their own radar to avoid such additives. It's an industry and they will fight to preserve their profits. If we stopped buying food with their junk additives, they would be forced to stop pushing their chemical laden foods on us.

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    Great information! I believe they are on to something, but if proof is found one day I am sure the food industry's 'Teflon coating' (pun intended) will protect them and yield no changes.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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