In a new study from Northwell Health in New York, researchers found the Mediterranean diet may be most effective to ease Crohn’s disease.
They evaluated one of the commonly used diets for Crohn’s disease, known as the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD), comparing it with the Mediterranean diet, which is sometimes recommended by doctors for its heart health benefits, but not for inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s.
The scientists found that both diets reduced symptoms almost equally, but the greater ease of following the Mediterranean diet might make it one that patients would prefer to follow.
Crohn’s disease involves the immune system and is characterized by abdominal symptoms, such as pain and diarrhea, and chronic inflammation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Together with ulcerative colitis (another inflammatory bowel disease), it affects about 3 million people in the United States.
Doctors are seeing patients who are on increasingly restrictive diets.
The downside of these tightly controlled eating regimens is that patients may not be getting enough calories or nutritional variety. An easier-to-follow diet may help with that.
In the study, the team analyzed data from 33 sites across the United States between September 2017 and October 2019.
The study included 191 patients who were assigned to one of the two diets, following it for 12 weeks. The participants received prepared food for the first six weeks.
The team found the diets affected their symptoms, and at 12 weeks about 42.4% had symptomatic remission with SCD and 40.2% with the Mediterranean diet.
The SCD includes unprocessed meats, fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables. It restricts certain legumes, all grains, certain sweeteners, canned fruits and vegetables, and certain dairy products.
The Mediterranean diet is low in red and processed meats and features fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish, lean meats, whole grains, small amounts of dairy and uses olive oil as its primary source of fat.
The two diets both try to reduce inflammation, but the Mediterranean diet is more palatable.
The team says diet isn’t the only line of defense against Crohn’s disease. For more than 20 years, since the first biologic medication was approved, there has been a blossoming of different medical therapies.
The people who were included in the study had mild to moderate disease. If someone is really sick and already malnourished, most physicians would not put them into a diet strategy.
For more information about gut health, please see recent studies about a big cause of irritable bowel syndrome and results showing that this common gut disease linked to early death risk.
The study is published in the journal Gastroenterology. One author of the study is Dr. Arun Swaminath.
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