Patients who eat more ultra-processed foods have a higher risk for irritable bowel syndrome, according to research published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Laure Schnabel, MPH, of Equipe de Recherche en Epidemiologie Nutritionnelle (EREN) in France, and colleagues wrote that foods made from substances derived from food and additives rose in popularity the last few decades, particularly in western countries.
“[Ultra-processed foods (UPF)] are typically branded, convenient, hyper-palatable food products which tend to displace fresh or minimally processed foods and freshly prepared dishes and meals,” the researchers wrote. “Recently, several studies evaluated the effects of UPF consumption on health, but the association between UPF consumption and functional gastrointestinal disorders has not been investigated.”
Schnabel and colleagues analyzed data from the web-based NutriNet-Santé cohort of 33,343 patients. They included in their study patients who completed at least three 24-hour food records, as well as a self-administered Rome III questionnaire. Investigators determined the proportion of UPF (UPFp) in each patient’s diet and estimated associations between UPFp quartiles and functional GI disorders.
Across the study cohort, researchers found that UPF accounted for 16% of food consumed in weight, as well as 33% of the total energy intake.
Patients in the highest UPFp quartile were associated with a higher risk for IBS compared with individuals in the lowest quartile (adjusted OR = 1.25; 95% CI, 1.12–1.39). Researchers did not find an association between increase in UPF and risk for functional constipation, functional diarrhea or functional dyspepsia without concomitant IBS.
Schnabel and colleagues suggested that several factors — including fiber intake and the non-nutritional compounds in UPFs — could cause the increased risk for IBS.
“Further studies are needed to confirm those results and better understand the relative impact of the nutritional composition and specific characteristics of UPF in this relationship,” they wrote. “Integrating the degree of food processing within nutritional recommendations to guide IBS patients toward reducing UPF consumption may be relevant if such products are confirmed as culprits for the induction and/or exacerbation of digestive symptoms.” – by Alex Young
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.