Scientists from McMaster University found a higher intake of ultra-processed food is associated with higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease.
Inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract and is divided into Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
The disease occurs in genetically susceptible people after an exaggerated immune response to a normal stimulus such as food and intestinal flora.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic, or long lasting, disease that causes inflammation and irritation in your digestive tract.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease in which abnormal reactions of the immune system cause inflammation and ulcers on the inner lining of your large intestine.
Ulcerative colitis can develop at any age, but the disease is more likely to develop in people between the ages of 15 and 30.
Ultra-processed foods are made mostly from substances extracted from foods, such as fats, starches, added sugars, and hydrogenated fats.
They may also contain additives like artificial colors and flavors or stabilizers. Examples of these foods are frozen meals, soft drinks, hot dogs and cold cuts, fast food, packaged cookies, cakes, and salty snacks.
In the current study, researchers aimed to examine the link between intake of ultra-processed food and risk of inflammatory bowel disease.
They analyzed data from 116,087 adults aged 35-70 years from Setting 21 low-, middle-, and high-income countries (Europe and North America, South America, Africa, Middle East, south Asia, South East Asia, and China).
Participants completed food questionnaires to show their dietary patterns.
The team found that during a follow-up of 10 years, 467 participants developed incident inflammatory bowel disease (90 with Crohn’s disease and 377 with ulcerative colitis).
Eating more ultra-processed food was linked to a higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease.
Furthermore, different subgroups of ultra-processed food, including soft drinks, refined sweetened foods, salty snacks, and processed meat, each were associated with higher hazard ratios for inflammatory bowel disease.
The team also found the results were similar for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Intakes of white meat, red meat, dairy, starch, and fruit, vegetables, and legumes were not linked to inflammatory bowel disease.
Based on the findings, the researchers conclude that eating more ultra-processed food is linked to a lower risk of inflammatory bowel disease.
They say further studies are needed to identify the risk factors within ultra-processed foods for inflammatory bowel disease.
The research is published in The BMJ and was conducted by Neeraj Narula et al.
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