An increase in autoimmune diseases poses a socioeconomic challenge worldwide. Predisposing genetic risk has been identified, yet environmental factors make up a significant part of the risk in disease initiation and propagation. Next to improved hygiene and a gross reduction of infections, changes in dietary habits are one of the most evident Western lifestyle factors potentially associated with the increase in autoimmune diseases. Growing evidence suggests that particularly a typical 'Western diet', rich in saturated fat and salt and related pathologies can have a profound impact on local and systemic immune responses under physiologic and autoimmune conditions such as in multiple sclerosis (MS). In this review, we discuss recent findings on environmental factors influencing autoimmunity with an emphasis on the impact of 'Western diet' on immune homeostasis and gut microbiota in MS.
Keywords: Autoimmunity; CD4+ T cells; Environmental risk factors; Foxp3+ Tregs; MS; Microbiota; Th17 cells.