Processed Food May Raise Risk of Autoimmune Diseases
Does eating a lot of processed food increase your chance of developing an autoimmune disease?
That's what a new study published in the journal Autoimmunity Reviews suggests, concluding that additives to microwave and other prepared meals may weaken the intestine in a way that raises the risk of developing conditions such as type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Processed foods are defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as "any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration or milling." This means they include more than just microwave meals. including cheese, breakfast cereals, canned fruits and vegetables, bread, savory snacks and meats such as bacon and sausages.
An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body, mistaking them for foreign invaders. This can lead to destruction of body tissue and abnormal organ growth and function.
Researchers in Israel and Germany looked at how certain additives in processed foods -- used to improve the taste, texture, smell and shelf life -- affect the intestines and the development of autoimmune diseases.
In their study, the scientists identified at least seven common food additives -- including glucose, gluten, sodium, fat solvents, organic acids, nanometric particles and microbial transglutaminase (an enzyme used as a food protein "glue") -- that can lead to a condition known as "leaky gut," in which in which toxins can enter the bloodstream, potentially leading to the development of autoimmune diseases.
More than 75 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed or restaurant food.
The researchers pointed out that while the FDA closely regulates prescription drugs and medications, there is little oversight of food additives.
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