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Ultra-Processed Foods As a Risk Factor For Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Ultra-processed foods IBD
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

A new study discusses the role of ultra-processed foods in increasing the risk of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD in people with bad dietary habits. The processed foods are associated with a number of health conditions mainly because of their nutrition-less value. Processing changes the number and quality of vitamins, minerals, and other essential ingredients inside, and increases the content of sugar, salt, fat, or any other potentially harmful ingredient. This imbalanced nutrition directly affects gut health and may trigger a number of diseases in those who are already at risk.

The complete study findings are published in the journal The BMJ today.

What Are Ultra-Processed Foods?

The ultra-processed foods may also contain artificial flavors, additives, colors, and stabilizers that are involved in a number of side effects. Some of the examples of ultra-processed foods are hot dogs, fast food, cakes, soft drinks, frozen food among others and all of these are bad for a person with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

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Going through the latest stats, it is clear that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is much more common in developing and developed countries with the industrial revolution. It was initially believed that dietary factors change the way how human gut works but there was not much available to prove a link between ultra-processed foods and inflammatory bowel disease.

This current study was a collaboration between international research groups studying more than 116,087 adult participants between the ages 35-70 years from 21 countries. The participant countries were a mixture of low income, middle income, and high-income countries that were a part of the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) research study.

All of these participants joined this study between the years 2003 and 2016 and were re-evaluated after every three years. So all of them were analyzed for 9.7 years, on average to find this relation between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and ultra-processed foods.

During this course of study, at least 467 patients were diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, including 377 patients with ulcerative colitis and 90 patients of Crohn’s disease.

Dietary Habits And Gut Health

A complete breakdown of the risk factors and influences suggested that the consumption of ultra-processed foods had some role in developing a higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Those who consumed one or less than one serving consisting of ultra-processed foods on a daily basis were 82% higher risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease as compared to people who didn’t consume them. The research group further evaluated these ultra-processed foods choices including sugary foods, soft drinks, high salt snacks, and meaty foods all of which increase the chances of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

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On the other side, people who consumed red/white meat, fruit, veggies, legumes, nuts, and plant-based fat did not show a high risk of developing IBD. These results were found true for both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and were similar in people of different ages, and regions.

This whole study was observational and cannot estimate the causalities. The results are based on data that is mostly self-reported and was not cross-checked or verified with anything. There are also chances of being a role of other unattended risk factors that might have changed these results. Therefore, more detailed research will reveal the exact role played by any processed food in developing IBD.

The health experts suggest adding fresh and minimally processed foods to the diet to provide for the essential nutrients that are required by the body. Dietary improvements can not only lower the risks of certain diseases but also add years to life. Considering the ongoing pandemic, making better dietary choices and switching to a healthier lifestyle can also save from covid-19 complications and severe effects.