A diet high in fat may help fight against Crohn’s disease by reducing symptoms of the bowel condition, according to new research.
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease, but medical professionals are still unsure what causes it. Around 115,000 people in the UK suffer from the condition, experiencing symptoms such as intestinal swelling, cramping, nausea and diarrhoea, and there is currently no cure.
A team from Case Western Reserve University investigated the effects of two types of diet on the gut bacteria of mice. They found there to be 30 per cent fewer kinds of gut bacteria in mice which were fed a fatty diet – high in plant-derived ‘good’ fats – compared to mice which were fed a normal diet, leading to markedly different gut microbial composition in the mice.
It was concluded that plant-derived ‘good’ fats, such as cocoa butter and coconut oil (which were used in the study), avocados, olive oil, salmon and nuts may reduce bacterial diversity, and that even a small consumption of ‘good’ fats was associated with a reduction in gut inflammation.
“The finding is remarkable because it means that a Crohn’s patient could also have a beneficial effect on their gut bacteria and inflammation by only switching the type of fat in their diet,” said Alexander Rodriguez-Palacios, first study author.
“Patients would only need to replace a ‘bad’ fat with a ‘good’ fat, and eat normal amounts.
“Ongoing studies are now helping us to understand which component of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats make the difference in the gut microbes and make mice healthier. Ultimately, we aim to identify the ‘good’ fat-loving microbes for testing as probiotics.”
Their findings were presented at the Digestive Disease Week annual conference in Chicago.