IBD Risk Increases with Ultra-Processed Foods

We have published a number of posts highlighting scientific studies linking inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)* and other digestive conditions* with additives commonly found in U.S. processed and ultra-processed foods**. Now the results of a new scientific study support the findings of previous studies linking IBD risk to ultra-processed foods.  The scientists in the latest study found that a higher intake of ultra-processed food is associated with higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease.


Study overview

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.)

Participants were enrolled in the study between 2003 and 2016 and were assessed at least every three years. Over an average follow-up of 9.7 years, new diagnoses of IBD, including Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, were recorded.

During this time, 467 participants developed IBD (90 with Crohn’s disease and 377 with ulcerative colitis).

After taking account of other potentially influential factors, the researchers found that higher intake of ultra-processed food was associated with a higher risk of IBD.

For example, compared with less than one serving of ultra-processed food per day, they found an 82% increased risk of IBD among those who consumed five or more servings per day, and a 67% increased risk for 1-4 servings per day.

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.

Results were consistent for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and were similar after further analysis to test the risk of developing IBD based on age and region, suggesting that the findings are robust.


*Food Dyes may Trigger Colitis, IBD in Some People: Study

IBD and BPA: A Risky Combination

Food Additive Maltodextrin Linked with Digestive Problems, IBD

Colon, Gut Microbiota Problems Linked with Common Food Additive

Two More Studies Link Ultra-Processed Foods with Serious Health Risks and Early Death

Increased Death Risk from Highly Processed Food Additives: Researchers

Another Study Links Commonly Used Additive in Processed Food to Bowel Cancer, Other Serious Illnesses

Common Food Additive Linked with Worsening Colitis: New Research

Common Additive in Food, Meds Linked with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases and Colorectal Cancer

Serious Digestive Problems Linked to Food Additive Titanium Dioxide


**Ultra-processed foods include packaged baked goods and snacks, fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, ready-made, heat-and-eat meals containing food additives, and reconstituted meat and fish products. See more about ultra-processed foods here.

Journal Reference:  Neeraj Narula, Emily C L Wong, Mahshid Dehghan, Andrew Mente, Sumathy Rangarajan, Fernando Lanas, Patricio Lopez-Jaramillo, Priyanka Rohatgi, P V M Lakshmi, Ravi Prasad Varma, Andres Orlandini, Alvaro Avezum, Andreas Wielgosz, Paul Poirier, Majid A Almadi, Yuksel Altuntas, Kien Keat Ng, Jephat Chifamba, Karen Yeates, Thandi Puoane, Rasha Khatib, Rita Yusuf, Kristina Bengtsson Boström, Katarzyna Zatonska, Romaina Iqbal, Liu Weida, Zhu Yibing, Li Sidong, Antonio Dans, Afzalhussein Yusufali, Noushin Mohammadifard, John K Marshall, Paul Moayyedi, Walter Reinisch, Salim Yusuf. Association of ultra-processed food intake with risk of inflammatory bowel disease: prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal (BMJ), 2021; n1554 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.n1554

Post: AS