Study: Sugar Can Increase Colitis, IBD Risk

A high-sugar diet could be one of the main culprits for an increased incidence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to a recent research study.

A new study  published in Science Translational Medicine found that sugar, especially glucose contained in high fructose corn syrup, may be a key contributor to an increased number of IBD cases.

Hasan Zaki, Ph.D., professor of pathology, and a group of researchers from UT Southwestern analyzed how sugar affects mice’s gastrointestinal tract. The team fed a group of mice a high-sugar diet and discovered these mice developed more intense colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel condition.

A high-sugar diet also affected the protective lining of the intestine. The research team found sugar promoted gut-damaging bacteria’s growth that caused a thinning of the protective mucosal lining of the intestine and initiated inflammation. Furthermore, sugar caused good bacteria like Lactobacillus to decrease (Medical Xpress ).

What is Colitis?

Colitis is a general term for an inflamed colon. It can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea and rectal bleeding. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to two specific conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

IBD is more common in Western countries, and this may be due to poor eating habits. The Western diet contains high amounts of sugar, fat and animal protein, which can inflame the GI tract. Is there a link between the invention of high fructose corn syrup in the 1960s and the rising number of IBD cases? Dr. Zaki thinks it is a strong possibility. “Our study clearly shows that you really have to mind your food,” he said.

Dr. Zaki plans to continue his research and study how sugar may affect the development of other inflammatory conditions like obesity, fatty liver disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Who is Most at Risk for IBD?

Past research shows dietary changes can profoundly affect the gut microbiome. However, some people are more at risk for IBD. Some of the risk factors for IBD include:

  • Family history of IBD
  • Lower socioeconomic status
  • Less than a high school level of education
  • Smoking (Crohn’s disease only)

Talk to your Doctor

Undiagnosed IBD can cause permanent damage to your digestive tract and increase your risk of colon cancer. If you are experiencing symptoms of IBD, call your doctor and schedule an appointment to evalute your complaints. Your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist who might schedule a colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist will evaluate your colon’s health during your colonoscopy and diagnose conditions like IBD, diverticulitis, or colon polyps (which can be removed and prevent the development of colon cancer). If necessary, you can begin a treatment plan right away.

Resolve to make colon health a priority in this new year. Preventing colon disease is easier and less expensive than treatment, so call San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates today.