Study reveals association between ultra-processed food and higher risk of IBD

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Further studies needed to identify contributory factors in processed foods that might account for such association

A higher intake of ultra-processed food is associated with higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), finds a study published by The BMJ

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is more common in industrialised nations and it is thought that dietary factors might play a role, but data linking ultra-processed food  intake with IBD are limited.

To explore this further, an international team of researchers drew on detailed dietary information from 116,087 adults aged 35-70 years living in 21 low, middle, and high income countries who were taking part in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. 

PURE is examining the impact of societal influences on chronic diseases in different countries around the world. 

Different subgroups of ultra-processed food, including soft drinks, refined sweetened foods, salty snacks, and processed meat, each were associated with higher risks of IBD.

In contrast, intakes of white meat, red meat, dairy, starch, and fruit, vegetables, and legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils) were not associated with IBD.

As white meat, unprocessed red meat, dairy, starch, and fruit, vegetables, and legumes were not found to be associated with development of IBD, this study suggests that it might not be the food itself that confers this risk but rather the way the food is processed or ultra-processed, as per the researchers.

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