Friday 26th May, 2017
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Study uncovers link between red meat consumption and diverticulitis

Study uncovers link between red meat consumption and diverticulitis

Lovers of red meat have been dealt a big blow as a new study, published in the journal Gut, links the con­sumption of red meat to an in­creased risk of developing diver­ticulitis.
 
Diverticulitis is a relatively common complaint that occurs when bulging sacs appear in the lining of the intestine. These pockets can become infected or inflamed, leading to symptoms such as nausea and fever, consti­pation and/or diarrhea, cramp­ing, and pain in the abdomen.
 
Approximately, four percent of people with diverticulitis go on to develop severe or long-term complications, including abscesses, perforations in the gastrointestinal tract, and fistu­las, which are abnormal connec­tions between the hollow spaces of the body.
 
More recent data suggest that up to 50 per cent of individ­uals older than 60 years of age have colonic diverticula, with 10 per cent to 25 per cent develop­ing complications such as diver­ticulitis. Hospitalizations for di­verticular disease have also been on the rise.
 
According to an American study evaluating hospitalization rates between 1998 and 2005, rates of admission for divertic­ular disease increased by 26 per cent during the eight-year study period. Similar trends have been observed in Canadian and Euro­pean data over the same time pe­riod.
 
Worryingly, the number of new cases appears to be rising, particularly among younger in­dividuals.
 
Known risk factors include using nonsteroidal anti-inflam­matory drugs (NSAIDs), a sed­entary lifestyle, obesity, and smoking. However, despite the high number of cases, a full range of causes has not yet been described.
 
Although low levels of fiber intake are thought to play a role, dietary influences on diverticuli­tis had not been examined thor­oughly.
 
Recently, a team led by Dr. Andrew Chan - from Massachu­setts General Hospital in Boston, United States of America (USA), set out to investigate dietary fac­tors involved in diverticulitis in more detail. They specifically focused on the consumption of meat, poultry, and fish in 46,500 men from the Health Profession­als Follow-Up Study.
 
The participants were aged 40-75 when they joined the study between 1986-2012. Every four years, the men were asked how often they had eaten standard portions of red meat, poultry, and fish over the preceding 12 months. The responses were giv­en using a 9-point scale, ranging from “never” or “less than once a month” to “six or more times a day.” Over the 26-year study pe­riod, 764 men developed diver­ticulitis.
 
Participants who ate higher quantities of red meat were also more likely to have used NSAIDs and painkillers, smoked more, exercised less, and consumed less dietary fiber.
 
Conversely, individuals who ate more fish and poultry were more likely to take aspirin, smoke less, and exercise vigorously more often.
 
Although these differenc­es were clear, a significant ef­fect was still observed once they had been accounted for: total red meat intake was associated with an increased risk of diverticuli­tis. Perhaps surprisingly, this as­sociation was not influenced by age or weight.
 
When those consuming the least red meat were compared with those consuming the high­est quantities, a 58 per cent in­creased risk of developing diver­ticulitis was found. Each daily serving was associated with an 18 percent increased risk, peak­ing at six portions per week.
 
The strongest links were found with unprocessed meats; swapping just one daily portion with poultry or fish was associat­ed with a 20 percent reduction in risk. The authors conclude: “Our findings may provide practical dietary guidance for patients at risk of diverticulitis, a common disease of huge economic and clinical burden.”
 
The next question to ask is why red meat consump­tion might increase diverticuli­tis risk. Further research will be necessary to answer this query, but there are some theories in cir­culation.

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