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How Did Migration Influence the Evolution of IBD?

Where you live affects your risk of Crohn’s disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a serious problem that reaches across the globe. If you’re one of the 5 million people worldwide who deals with IBD, you might be curious about the disease’s origins. How did conditions like ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease become so widespread, and why are they more prevalent in some groups of people than in others? Well, thanks to a new report, we are now getting a clearer understanding of this.

The review published in January 2018 in the World Journal of Gastroenterologyexamines the role race and global migration played in the development of IBD over time. It also shows the impact environmental factors, like the typical diet of a country, might have played on different groups’ susceptibilities to developing IBD as they migrated from one place to another.

The team, led by researchers at St. Mark’s Hospital and Academic Institute in London, analyzed data on South Asian migrants and found that compared with caucasians, people of South Asian descent had a higher incidence of UC than the local population.

“There are several observations that implicate environmental factors in the overall incidence of IBD,” says Naila Arebi, MD, PhD, lead author of the report, who is in the department of gastroenterology at St. Mark’s Hospital. According to Dr. Arebi, environmental factors that might lead to the development of IBD include:

  • Early-life antibiotics
  • Vaccinations
  • Hygiene
  • Adoption of Westernized diets
  • Contraceptive pills
  • Low vitamin D levels
  • Changes to the mother’s microbiome — the community of microorganisms that reside in all our bodies

Arebi says that for South Asian migrants, for example, these kinds of environmental factors really ramped up the predominance of UC, specifically. She adds that the prevailing belief is that these environmental factors could trigger certain genetic predispositions for IBD in people.

“For migrants, it may be related to a Westernized diet that changes the microbiome and, combined with a specific genetic factor, activates the disease,” she says. “(IBD) tends to present earlier in life in second generation migrants, compared with first generation, implying a lag phase of years.”

Read on: How Did Migration Influence the Evolution of IBD? | Everyday Health

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