Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity

Nutr J. 2014 Jun 17:13:61. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-61.


While numerous changes in human lifestyle constitute modern life, our diet has been gaining attention as a potential contributor to the increase in immune-mediated diseases. The Western diet is characterized by an over consumption and reduced variety of refined sugars, salt, and saturated fat. Herein our objective is to detail the mechanisms for the Western diet's impact on immune function. The manuscript reviews the impacts and mechanisms of harm for our over-indulgence in sugar, salt, and fat, as well as the data outlining the impacts of artificial sweeteners, gluten, and genetically modified foods; attention is given to revealing where the literature on the immune impacts of macronutrients is limited to either animal or in vitro models versus where human trials exist. Detailed attention is given to the dietary impact on the gut microbiome and the mechanisms by which our poor dietary choices are encoded into our gut, our genes, and are passed to our offspring. While today's modern diet may provide beneficial protection from micro- and macronutrient deficiencies, our over abundance of calories and the macronutrients that compose our diet may all lead to increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and auto-inflammatory disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet, Western / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Dysbiosis / etiology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology
  • Fast Foods / adverse effects*
  • Fathers
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / adverse effects
  • Food, Genetically Modified / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Immunity / drug effects
  • Immunity / physiology*
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Life Style
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Obesity / economics
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Sucrose / adverse effects
  • Sweetening Agents / adverse effects
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / drug effects


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Sweetening Agents
  • TLR4 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Sucrose