Unhealthy Foods Commonly Associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease


Individuals who commonly eat popcorn and drink milk have smaller odds of developing IBD.

Moon K. Han, PhD, MPH, MSc

Moon K. Han, PhD, MPH, MSc

Certain foods can raise an individual’s risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including French fries, cookies, and cheese.

A team, led by Moon K. Han, PhD, MPH, MSc, Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Center for Diagnostics and Therapeutics, Center for Inflammation, Immunity and Infection, Digestive Disease Research Group, Georgia State University, conducted a secondary analysis of the National Health Interview Survey 2015 to characterize the estimated US adults with IBD with their food intake and consumption frequency.

In the survey, 103,789 participants were interviewed face-to-face with computer assistance and completed a questionnaire that consisted of 6 sections—household, family, person, sample child, injury episode, and sample adult.

The sample adult survey included 33,672 participants who were non-institutionalized adults between 18-85 years old.

The investigators categorized each patient’s body mass index and used bivariate and multivariate logistic regression to assess 26 foods. They found eating patterns between IBD and non-IBD populations were mostly analogous.

The team found French fries were consumed by a greater number of people with IBD. They also found individuals with the disease drank less 100% fruit juice and ate more cheese and cookies than the general population.

Overall, intake of French fries (OR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.14—2.25) and sports and energy drinks (OR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.07–1.97) and more frequent drinking of regular soda were significantly associated with the likelihood of having inflammatory bowel disease.

On the other hand, those who eat popcorn (OR, 0.73; 95% CI, 5.48-0.971) and drink milk (OR, 0.70; 95% CI, 0497-0.998) had smaller odds of developing IBD when adjusting for covariates.

A diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) food could help lower guy symptoms for patients suffering from quiescent inflammatory bowel disease.

A team, led by Selina R. Cox, PhD, Department of Nutritional Sciences, King’s College London, conducted a randomized, controlled trial investigating the impact of a low FODMAP diet on persistent gut symptoms, the intestinal microbiome, and circulating markers of inflammation in patients with quiescent IBD or ulcerative colitis and persistent gut symptoms.

“We conclude that a 4-week diet low in FODMAPs is safe and effective for managing persistent gut symptoms in patients with quiescent IBD,” the authors wrote.

Ultimately, foods commonly considered to be “junk food” are positively associated with IBD.

The investigators concluded it is unclear whether the results reflect potential changes in diet and food intake in the IBD population long before the survey interview.

“Understanding the role of food intake in IBD risk/prevalence would benefit from identifying other environmental factors (i.e. food desert), food processing (i.e. frying), and potential bioactive food components that can induce intestinal inflammation that can increase the individual’s susceptibility to IBD,” the authors wrote.

While a definitive cause for IBD is not known, the disease is strongly associated with a genetic predisposition, gut microbiota composition, and altered innate and adaptive immune responses.

The study, “Examination of food consumption in United States adults and the prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease using National Health Interview Survey 2015,” was published online in Plos One.

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