Science & Research

Yale-led Study Suggests Diet Change Helps People with Autoimmune Disease

In a study published in Cell Host & Microbe*, a Yale-led research team discovered that a dietary intervention can help prevent the onset and progression of lupus in susceptible mice.

A single bacterium, Lactobacillus reuteri, was shown to stimulate a subset of immune cells and immune system pathways in lupus-prone mice. Then a subset of these mice were fed “resistant starch” - a diet that mimics a high-fiber diet in humans. The starch ferments in the large intestine and is beneficial to the growth of good bacteria and increases production of short-chain fatty acids. This led to suppressed growth and migration of L. reuteri out of the gut and a lower incidence of autoimmune manifestations in this population.


The study also found an imbalance of the gut microbiota in some human lupus patients that mimicked mice with active autoimmune disease. While more research needs to be done to see how to effectively translate the findings to better lupus management, the researchers concluded that they “identified a pathway that is driving autoimmune disease and is mitigated by diet”. They also noted that the findings may have implications for the management of autoimmune diseases beyond lupus.


*Zegarra-Ruiz DF, El Beidaq A, Iniquez AJ et al. A diet-sensitive commensal Lactobacillus strain mediates TLR7-dependent systemic autoimmunity. Cell Host & Microbe. 2019;25(1):113-27.

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