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Post-dieting microbiome alterations may increase food allergy risk

Published online: February 12, 2019

Food allergies represent one of the epidemics of the modern world affecting up to 8% of children and adults. Changes in our dietary habits (rich in saturated fat and refined sugars) associated with a Western lifestyle have been discussed as potential drivers of this epidemiological trend. Although diet-induced obesity and food allergies rise in tandem, a potential cause-and-effect relationship between these diseases of affluence remains to be tested.

In an article recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Hussain and colleagues investigated the impact of high fat dieting on food allergy pathogenesis. Employing a model of food allergy and dietary intervention strategies, they demonstrated that diet-induced obesity increased susceptibility to experimental food allergy. Mice fed a high fat diet (HFD) presented with dysregulated intestinal mast cell responses, increased intestinal permeability and dysbiosis resulting in an overall increased clinical food allergy score.

Overindulgence in dietary fat was associated with a reduction in intestinal microbial diversity, a trait that was both transmissible and durable in germ-free mice reconstituted with a HFD-associated microbiome. Importantly, microbial diversity did not fully recover to its original complexity despite feeding HFD-microbiome reconstituted mice a normal diet. Such persistent post-dieting microbiome alterations may have functional consequences for host immunity.  Indeed, independent of an obese state, a HFD-associated microbiome was sufficient to confer enhanced susceptibility to experimental food allergy.

The results of this study identify post-dieting microbiome alterations as a risk factor for experimental food allergy and uncouple a pathogenic role of an HFD-associated microbiome from obesity. Restoring microbial diversity in children on a Western diet may present a promising approach to limit the onset of allergic inflammation in genetically predisposed individuals.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is an official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

Graphical Abstract