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The BMJ recently published an observational study linking higher consumption of ultra-processed foods – packaged and formulated foods and beverages containing artificial flavorings, colors, or other chemical ingredients – with elevated risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These foods are generally low in vitamins and fiber and tend to contain high levels of added sugar, poor-quality fats, and excessive salt.
Detailed dietary information was gathered from 116,087 adults in 21 countries who took part in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. Participants were assessed via standardized questionnaires at least every three years. During an average follow-up period of 9.7 years, 467 of the participants developed IBD, of whom 90 were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and 377 with ulcerative colitis.
The researchers found an 82% increased risk of IBD among people who consumed five or more servings a day of ultra-processed food and a 67% increased risk among those who had one to four servings a day, compared to those who ate less than one serving.
Elevated risk was also associated with higher intake of specific types of ultra-processed food, including processed meats, soft drinks, refined sweetened foods, and salty foods and snacks. In contrast, eating dairy foods, fruit, white and red meat, vegetables, and legumes such as lentils, peas, and beans was not found to be associated with IBD.
Source: Narula N, Wong ECL, Dehghan M, et al. Association of ultra-processed food intake with risk of inflammatory bowel disease: prospective cohort study. BMJ, 2021; 374:n1554. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.n1554.
Published in the Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing
Fall 2021 | Volume 45, Number 3
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