Dietary Treatment for Crohn’s Disease
Inflammation has recently emerged as an important player in the development of age-related disability and many of our major chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Now that laboratory tests such as C-reactive protein have been developed, we can measure the effects different foods and diets have on inflammatory markers.
Most plant-based foods decrease inflammation. Processing destroys the anti-inflammatory effects of some (garlic decreases inflammation but garlic powder does not), but improves these effects in others (tomato juice decreases inflammation but whole tomatoes do not).
Do these anti-inflammatory plant foods actually have an impact on inflammatory disease mortality though? I profile a new study out of Australia, which followed about 2,500 older adults and their diets for 15 years. In that time, about 200 participants died of inflammatory diseases, allowing the scientists to calculate the specific aspect of the survivors’ diets that seemed to help the most. It was nuts! The equivalent of half a walnut a day appeared to cut the risk of dying from inflammatory disease in nearly half. Fish consumption, to their surprise, didn’t seem to help, which may be due to pro-inflammatory industrial pollutants that build up the food chain. This may help explain why most studies done to date on those eating vegetarian or vegan have found lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers in their bodies.
However, just because plant-based diets decrease markers of inflammation doesn’t necessarily mean that plant-based diets can successfully be used to fight inflammatory disease. To find that out, you’ve got to put it to the test. The gold standard for evidence in nutritional science is an interventional trial. You split people into two groups and ask half to go on one diet, half to go on another, and then stand back and see what happens. That’s just what researchers recently did for the autoimmune inflammatory bowel condition known as Crohn’s disease.
Inflammatory bowel disease risk has been tied to arachidonic acid, which may partially explain the animal protein connection given the levels in chicken and eggs. The anti-inflammatory nature of plant foods may explain why those eating plant-based diets have less diabetes, fewer allergies, less heart disease, better moods, and fewer chronic diseases in chronic diseases in general.
In health, Michael Greger, M.D.
by Dr. Michael Greger
One child is dead and 13 others sickened across six states in an ongoing outbreak of E. coli O145. Another child—a first-grader in Massachusetts—also died recently, but that was due to a different strain of E. coli, O157. After the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak in 1993, E. coli O157 was declared an adulterant, meaning it became illegal to sell meat testing positive for the deadly pathogen. It still, however, remained perfectly legal to sell meat contaminated with the other “Big Six” toxin-producing E. coli strains: O26, O111, O103, O121, O45 and O145. These strains are collectively sickening twice as many Americans as O157. For years, food safety and consumer organizations have fought to ban the sale of meat soiled with these other deadly strains against meat industry objections.
In the 1990s, the American Meat Institute opposed the original ban on the sale of raw meat contaminated with E. coli O157 despite the devastating effect this pathogen could have on vulnerable populations, especially children. Here’s how one mother described what E. coli O157:H7 did to her three-year-old daughter Brianna:
“The pain during the first 80 hours was horrific, with intense abdominal cramping every 10 to 12 minutes. Her intestines swelled to three times their normal size and she was placed on a ventilator. Emergency surgery became essential and her colon was removed. After further surgery, doctors decided to leave the incision open, from sternum to pubis, to allow Brianna’s swollen organs room to expand and prevent them from ripping her skin. Her heart was so swollen it was like a sponge and bled from every pore. Her liver and pancreas shut down and she was gripped by thousands of convulsions, which caused blood clots in her eyes. We were told she was brain dead.”
The ban passed in 1994 despite meat industry opposition, and now the number of Americans dying from E. coli O157 is half of what it used to be. Unfortunately this lesson was lost on the American Meat Institute, which continued to fight tooth and nail against similar regulations targeting the other Big Six strains. This week they lost. Meat known to test positive for any of these potentially deadly fecal pathogens can no longer be legally sold as of June 4, 2012. Too late for Maelan Elizabeth Graffagnini, though—the 21-month old victim of E. coli O145 whose funeral was held the same day.
The immediate source of the current outbreak has yet to be identified, but the original source is always the same: feces. How contaminated is the American meat supply with fecal matter?
What about the hundreds of thousands of Americans that die from non-intestinal E. coli infections? Please feel free to check out my 3-min. video Chicken Out of UTIs.
The meat industry argues that they should be allowed to sell unsafe meat because it only poses a risk if it’s not properly cooked or handled. Ironically, they’re also opposed to safe handling labeling. See my 3-min. video Food Poisoning Bacteria Cross-Contamination.
In health, Michael Greger, M.D.