A spike in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) prevalence worldwide parallels an uptick in Western dietary patterns.
Clinicians have long conjectured that ultra-processed foods may compromise gastrointestinal (GI) tract health, but they lacked the evidence to confirm this link.
A recent multinational study provides good evidence that regularly consuming highly processed foods and beverages is associated with inflammation and IBD.
IBD is more prevalent in affluent countries than in those with lower median incomes. However, cases are risingTrusted Source in developing nations where ultra-processed foods are increasingly available and popular.
For years, gastroenterologists have suspected that ultra-processed foods may contribute to inflammation and IBD. However, few clinical studies have evaluated this hypothesis on a large scale.
A recent multinational prospective cohort study explored the relationship between the consumption of ultra-processed food and the risk of developing IBD.
Neeraj Narula, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, led the study. The results appear in the British Medical Journal.
What is IBD?
IBD is a group of diseases that cause chronic inflammation in the GI tract. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are in this category.
About 3 million people in the United States live with IBD.
Some studies point to genetic risk factors for the condition, but mounting evidence links dietary patterns to its development.
Ashkan Farhadi, M.D., MS, FACP, a gastroenterologist and author, describes IBD as “a disease of wealthy nations.”
As societies progress economically, he says, they forgo traditional ways of growing, preparing, and preserving foods in favor of grabbing conveniently packaged products.
In a recent interview with Medical News Today, he hailed the current study as the first cohort work pinpointing processed foods as the culprit driving IBD development.
Before this, Dr. Farhadi noted, “there was no actual research demonstrating what happens [to gut health] as a nation becomes better off economically.”
Dr. Farhadi also commended the researchers for having included ultra-processed drinks, unlike most other research.