A recent animal study has allegedly identified a new immunological connection
between obesity and asthma involving “inflammasome activation and
production of cytokine interleukin-17 by innate lymphoid cells in the lung,”
according to a concurrent editorial published in Nature Medicine. Hye Young
Kim, et al., “Interleukin-17-producing innate lymphoid cells and the NLRP3
inflammasome facilitate obesity-associated airway hyperreactivity,” Nature
Medicine, January 2014. After studying mice that were raised on a high-fat
diet until they became obese and developed asthma, researchers with Boston
Children’s Hospital apparently reported that “obesity appeared to alter the
innate immune system—the body’s first responder to infection—in several
ways to cause lung inflammation.” In particular, they noted that, compared
with non-obese mice, “the lungs of the obese, asthmatic mice had several
differences”: (i) “High levels of the protein interleukin 17A (IL17A), a cytokine
(signaling molecule) associated with several inflammatory conditions”; (ii)
“Increased numbers of the immune cells that produce IL17A, known as type3
innate lymphoid cells (ILC3 cells)”; (iii) “Activation of an inflammatory protein
known as NLRP3 inside lung cells”; and (iv) “Increased production of the
cytokine IL-1β, a stimulator of ILC3 cells.” See Boston Children’s Hospital Press
Release, December 15, 2013.

“The association between obesity and asthma has been known for several years, but the specific mechanisms by which obesity causes asthma have been undefined until now,” concludes the study. “We now suggest that the inflammation in obesity, which has been recently shown to arise from NLRP3 activation and excess production of cytokine IL-1β, also underlies the development of asthma that is associated with obesity.”


Issue 509

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.