New clues to risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

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12 April 2016

Rada Rouse

Eating fast food more than once a week is highly linked with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in adults, researchers have found.

They also show high fruit intake and caffeine protect against getting IBD, in the first Australian population-based study of environmental exposures experienced by patients with IBD.

The study of 236 people was conducted in Barwon, Victoria, which has one of the world’s highest incidence rates of IBD and compared people with IBD with people who did not have the disease.

The researchers found that frequent fast food intake was associated with nearly 6 times the odds of having ulcerative colitis (UC) and nearly 3 times the odds of Crohn’s disease.

Factors associated with protection against IBD included daily fruit intake, drinking 2 or more cups of coffee and/or tea a day, and childhood pet ownership.

The study backs other work linking smoking and childhood immunological events such as tonsillectomy with later IBD.

In a novel finding, the study showed having chickenpox as a child increased the odds of IBD nearly two-fold, but the authors caution chickenpox rates were low in the control group and recall bias may be an issue.

“The findings support emerging theories on IBD aetiology,” they write.

“Firstly that early childhood exposures are important and secondly that modulation of the intestinal microbiota through immunologic, hygienic and dietary events may increase the risk of IBD in the future.”

The researchers say the study, which enrolled all new cases of IBD in Barwon over 4years then invited patients to take part in a detailed questionnaire, has avoided the bias of previous studies based on hospital cohorts.

Medical Observer