Benjamin Click, MD: The Health of the Modern US Diet


How patterns and trends in diet and lifestyle have influenced gastroenterology health.

There’s much debate behind the safety and benefit of trending diets and lifestyles, including gluten sensitivity. From the perspective of Benjamin Click, MD, the debate is null if the results are safe.

In an interview with MD Magazine®, Click, a staff gastroenterologist with the Cleveland Clinic, explained the inherent burdens of the Western diet, and what to navigate when monitoring a patient’s interest in diet trends.

MD Mag: How have trends and changes to the average US diet influenced the rate of gastroenterology diseases today?

Click: Diet is a very complex topic to cover. As we've seen over the last couple of decades, we've really seen an exportation of a Western diet—a diet that's lower in fiber, higher in fats, higher in red meat.

And so we've seen several unfortunate consequences potentially related to that diet. We've seen a rise in colorectal cancer, especially in a young patient population. We think this may be somehow tied to the dietary intake. And globally, we've seen an explosion of inflammatory bowel disease.

There's some thought and theory this has to do with our exporting of a Western diet—this diet that's higher in fat and lower in fiber, and how that ties into an inflammation response in the gastrointestinal tract. We think to 2 are tied together.

Certainly, there's an impact of the diet, and what we need to tease apart at this point in time is what that means for our therapeutic options. Can we use diet and dietary manipulation as a potential strategy to treat a disease process?

And there's a lot of ongoing research in this area. We still don't have a whole lot of knowledge related to this, but we hope to in the next couple of years learn some key findings for a variety of different disease states.

MD Mag: Has the gluten-free diet trend become associated with any negative health effects?

Click: I think as long as people aren't becoming too restrictive with their dietary intakes as a self-prescribed treatment for their symptoms or their disease processes, then I think this phenomenon of gluten sensitivity is okay, as long as they are maintaining a healthy diet otherwise.

There's a lot of nice gluten-free options out there now, which may not have been the case 10 or 15 years ago. So there's a lot of dietary options that can help maintain that healthy diet.

There's a lot of popular press about this gluten sensitivity and what it truly means from a biologic perspective. What I counsel patients is if you find gluten makes you feel worse, and you feel better when you avoid gluten, as long you maintain a healthy lifestyle and dietary intake, I'm okay with you maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle.

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