A new study conducted at a multinational level has uncovered links between the consumption of ultra-processed food and the risk of developing Inflammatory Bowel Disease, IBD.
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This disease is more prevalent in affluent countries than in those with lower median incomes.
An estimated 500,000 people are living with this disease in the UK while America has a record number of 3 million people with IBD.
However, cases are rising in developing nations where ultra-processed foods are increasingly available and popular.
What is IBD?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders that cause chronic inflammation (pain and swelling) in the intestines.
IBD includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both types affect the digestive system and occur mostly between the ages of 15 and 30.
Symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhoea and gas.
Medications and surgery can help manage IBD flares, putting the condition into remission.
Ultra Processed foods and IBD
Ultra-processed foods include most mass-produced foods and beverages. These items contain food additives, such as emulsifiers, preservatives, added sweeteners and flavourings, trans fats, and colourings.
Some common sources are soft drinks, chips, chocolate, candy, ice-cream, sweetened breakfast cereals, packaged soups, chicken nuggets, hotdogs and more.
The research team from McMaster University, Canada assessed the medical data of more than 116,000 adults aged 35–70 years.
The participants came from 21 low, middle, and high income nations across North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and China.
They completed a food frequency questionnaire at least every 3 years from 2003 to 2016.
According to the research findings published in the British Medical Journal, they reported their consumption of;
all types of packaged and formulated foods and beverages that contain food additives, artificial flavoUrings, coloUrs, or other chemical ingredients.
Participants in North America, South America, and Europe reported higher consumption of ultra-processed food than those in the other regions.
Although high consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a higher incidence of IBD, consumption of the same foods in unprocessed form did not carry the same risks.
Therefore, the researchers conclude that the risk of IBD is associated with the processing of the foods.