Red meat intake linked to common bowel condition
By Sola Ogundipe
A high dietary intake of red meat, particularly of the unprocessed variety, is linked to a heightened risk of developing the common inflammatory bowel condition, diverticulitis, reveals research published online in the journal Gut.
Diverticulitis occurs when the small pockets or bulges lining the intestine (diverticula) become inflamed. It is relatively common, accounting for thousands of hospital admissions every year.
New cases of the condition are on the rise, particularly among younger people. And around 4 per cent of those affected will develop severe or long term complications, such as perforations in the gut wall, abscesses, and fistula (abnormal connections between two hollow spaces).
Insufficient dietary fibre intake is also thought to have a role, but few other dietary factors have been explored in any detail.
In a bid to rectify this, the research team assessed the potential impact of total dietary red meat, poultry, and fish intake on the risk of developing diverticulitis in nearly 46,500 men, taking part in the Health Professionals Follow up Study.
During the 26 year monitoring period, some 764 men developed diverticulitis. Those who ate higher quantities of red meat tended to use common anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers more often; they smoked more; and they were less likely to exercise vigorously. Their fibre intake was also lower.
Those who ate more poultry and fish were more likely to exercise vigorously, take aspirin, and to smoke less.
Compared with the lowest levels of consumption, the highest level of red meat intake was associated with a 58 per cent heightened risk of developing diverticulitis, with each daily serving associated with an 18 v increased risk. However, risk peaked at six servings a week.
The association was strongest for unprocessed red meat, and substituting one daily portion of this with fish or poultry was associated with a 20 v lowered risk.
The research was only carried out in men, the findings may not be applicable to women. Nevertheless, the researchers conclude: “Our findings may provide practical dietary guidance for patients at risk of diverticulitis, a common disease of huge economic and clinical burden.”
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