Autoimmune disorders are kind of the albatross of the medical world. While they are somewhat prevalent (enough for us to be concerned) we still do no know a lot of about them.
“We don’t have a very good sense of why people develop autoimmune disorders,” explains study author Emily Somers.
Somers heads up a study which analyzed data of young women aged 16 to 49 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2004.
Somers, an associate professor in the departments of internal medicine in the division of rheumatology, environmental health sciences, and obstetrics & gynecology with the University of Michigan Medical and Public Health Schools theorizes:
“A large number of cases are not explained by genetics,” she added, “so we believe studying environmental factors will help us understand why autoimmunity happens and how we may be able to intervene to improve health outcomes. In our study, exposure to mercury stood out as the main risk factor for autoimmunity.”
The study authors discuss their findings:
“The presence of autoantibodies doesn’t necessarily mean they will lead to an autoimmune disease. However, we know that autoantibodies are significant predictors of future autoimmune disease, and may predate the symptoms and diagnosis of an autoimmune disease by years. For women of childbearing age, who are at particular risk of developing this type of disease, it may be especially important to keep track of seafood consumption.”
She goes on to say, “For women of childbearing age, who are at particular risk of developing this type of disease, it may be especially important to keep track of seafood consumption,” she added.
Somers and her colleagues at the university have reported their findings in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.