Westernized Diet is the Most Ubiquitous Environmental Factor in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Chiba M1, Nakane K1, Komatsu M1. Perm J. 2019;23. pii: 18-107. doi: 10.7812/TPP/18-107.

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1 Akita City Hospital, Japan.


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a collective term for Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis, is a polygenic disease thought to be triggered by environmental factors. A Western or westernized lifestyle may be a major driver of the growing incidence of IBD. IBD may represent dysregulated mucosal inflammation to gut microbiota. Despite many review articles on environmental factors in IBD, no consensus exists regarding which factor contributes most to trigger the onset of IBD. Identification and recognition of major environmental factors are prerequisite for effective disease treatment and prevention. Representative environmental factors such as smoking, breastfeeding, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotic use in childhood, oral contraceptives, and appendectomy do not correlate with disease onset in most patients with IBD. In contrast, diet appears to be important in most cases of IBD. Diets rich in animal protein (risk factor) and deficient in dietary fiber (preventive factor) are characteristic of westernized diets in affluent societies. Recent research shows that westernized diets are associated with a reduced gut microbial diversity (dysbiosis), which may result in increased susceptibility to IBD and other common chronic diseases. Plant-based diets rich in dietary fiber are associated with increased microbial diversity. Recent reports on IBD therapy that replaced westernized diets with plant-based diets achieved far better outcomes than those previously reported in the literature. We believe that westernized diet-associated gut dysbiosis is the most ubiquitous environmental factor in IBD. Adoption of this concept may have the potential to provide a better quality of life for patients with IBD.

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