Diet and IBD

Inflammatory Bowel Disease describes inflammatory disorders affecting the gut. There are several types but the two most common and well known are Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Now a new study has linked a Western diet high in sugar and fat with an increased risk of developing IBD.

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis and the Cleveland Clinic have claimed that they have found evidence that eating convenience food and takeaways impairs the immune system to such a degree that it increases the risk of developing serious health conditions such as IBD. The research was published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Lead author Dr Ta-Chiang Liu, an associate professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University, said: “Inflammatory bowel disease has historically been a problem primarily in Western countries such as the US, but it’s becoming more common globally as more and more people adopt Western lifestyles.

The link between diet and IBD

“Our research showed that long-term consumption of a Western-style diet high in fat and sugar impairs the function of immune cells in the gut in ways that could promote inflammatory bowel disease or increase the risk of intestinal infections.”

Clinical data was collected from 400 participants on the study to analyse the health of their Paneth cells which are usually located in the bowel. When the Paneth cells become damaged it can cause the gut immune system to become inflamed and is a key feature of IBD.

The researchers found a direct link between unhealthy Paneth cells and a high body mass index (BMI and the higher the BMI, the more impaired the cells were. But Liu commented: “Obesity wasn’t the problem per se. Eating too much of a healthy diet didn’t affect the Paneth cells. It was the high-fat, high-sugar diet that was the problem.

The clinical data on the human subjects was then supported with a study of obese mice. The Paneth cells in these obese mice looked normal, but when healthy mice were fed a diet high in fat or sugar and grew obese, their cells were impaired.

The exact cause of conditions such as Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis is unknown. Several factors, including genetics or an autoimmune reaction, may play a role in its development. For more advice on IBD, get in touch to arrange a consultation with Mr Michael Stellakis.