High fibre diets may not prevent diverticulosis

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 31st January 2012

For over 40 years, scientists and physicians have thought eating a high-fibre diet lowered a person’s risk of diverticulosis. A new US study of 2,104 people shows this may not be accurate.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at the Chapel Hill School of Medicine found that eating high fibre diets raised, as opposed to lowered, the risks of developing diverticulosis. The study also suggests the commonly-held belief that constipation increases the risk of the disease is not proven, as more frequent bowel movements actually increases a person’s risk.

The study found no association between diverticulosis and physical inactivity, intake of fat or intake of red meat.

Diverticulosis is a disease of the large intestine in which pouches develop in the colon wall. Although most cases are asymptomatic, complications such as infections, bleeding, intestinal perforations and even death can occur.

Anne Peery, MD, lead researcher for the study at UNC, says “despite the significant morbidity and mortality of symptomatic diverticulosis, it looks like we may have been wrong, for decades, about why diverticula actually form.”

Peery also says that while it is too early to advise what patients need to do differently, these results are interesting for researchers, as they now have discovered they do not know something, they can now look at the disease processes in new ways.

Peery says more research is needed before doctors change dietary recommendations

The latest UNC study is based on data comprised from 2,104 patients aged between 30-80 years who underwent outpatient colonoscopy at UNC hospitals from 1998-2010. These participants were also interviewed about their diet, bowel movements and levels of physical activity.