YOU’RE much more likely to develop deadly sepsis if you eat a lot of fatty foods, experts have warned.
Gorging on burgers and chips, pizza, cakes and other sugary treats is known to be bad for our waistlines.
And just yesterday, yet another study linked the Western diet to higher chances of developing cancer, heart disease and dying young.
But, now a team of scientists in the US, say what you eat can also affect your risk of sepsis – one of the deadliest conditions there is.
Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, is the body’s reaction to fighting an infection.
The immune system goes into overdrive, attacking the body’s own organs and tissues, which can lead to septic shock and organ failure.
The condition is deadly, claiming five lives every hour in the UK and 25,000 children each year, according to The Sepsis Trust.
Scientists at Stanford University and Portland State University now believe there is something in high-fat foods that actually changes the immune system – making sepsis more likely.
And they warned, if fats in the diet are found to be the culprit, those on high-fat keto diets might be at greater risk too.
It looks like the diet is manipulating immune cell function so that you’re more susceptible to sepsis, and then when you get sepsis, you die quicker
Dr Brooke Napier, Portland State University
Experiments in mice showed that those fed a low-fibre, high fat and sugary diet were more likely to develop severe sepsis and die.
Dr Brooke Napier, who led the research, said: “The mice’s immune system on the Western diet looked and functioned differently.
“It looks like the diet is manipulating immune cell function so that you’re more susceptible to sepsis, and then when you get sepsis, you die quicker.”
Dr Napier said the link between junk food and sepsis wasn’t to do with obesity or the microbiome, the community of bacteria in the gut.
She said the findings, which are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help doctors treat patients better.
By monitoring the diets of patients in intensive care, Dr Napier said it could help identify those at greatest risk of sepsis.
“If you know that a diet high in fat and sugar correlates with increased susceptibility to sepsis and increased mortality, when those patients are in the ICU, you can make sure they’re eating the right fats and the right ratio of fats,” she explained.
“If you could introduce a dietary intervention while they’re in the ICU to decrease their chances of manipulating their immune system in that way, you can somehow influence the outcome.”
Dr Napier said blood tests could one day identify the patients that need the most aggressive treatments.
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“We can look at their blood and say, ‘We need to treat them more aggressively than the person next door who doesn’t have chronic inflammation and doesn’t have these cell populations in their blood’,” she said.
Now the team of scientists are trying to find out if it is specific fats in the Western diet, that is changing how the immune system works.
“If it’s the fats in the diet that are doing the reprogramming, then it’ll be applicable to any diet that’s high-fat like the ketogenic diet or any sort of Atkins-related diet,” Dr Napier added.