By: Katie Williams, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent
(Ivanhoe Newswire) – South Beach, Atkins, Zone, Paleo – all were diet crazes that still remain largely popular today. Currently, dieticians and people everywhere are praising the flexitarian diet, a diet which places emphasis on eating more plant-based foods and less meat. Now, a study shows evidence for how beneficial this diet can really be.
People affected by Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), have chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The inflammation causes the intestinal wall to become thick. Typical treatment for Crohn’s disease includes eating foods that don’t worsen symptoms, controlling stress, medication, and surgery. Unfortunately, surgery does not ultimately cure the disease.
A prospective, single center, 2-year clinical trial in Japan was conducted to see whether a semi-vegetarian diet (SVD) has a preventive effect against relapse of Crohn’s disease in patients who have achieved remission, who are a high-risk group for relapse.
Twenty-two adult with Crohn’s disease from ages 19 to 77 years old were recruited for the study, having achieved clinical remission either medically or surgically. They were broken up into two groups: those on an SVD diet, and those on an omnivorous diet. The SVD diet included daily intake of rice, vegetables, fruits, and occasional intake of fish, meat, and other animal-based foods. They also refrained from foods reported as risk factors for IBD like sweets, bread, dairy, and fast food. A diet that did not fulfill these two conditions was regarded as an omnivorous diet. Researchers used the Kaplan-Meier survival analysis to calculate the developing proportion of patients who had a relapse, analyzing the relapse rates of patients who followed an SVD and those who did not (an omnivorous diet group) for two years.
73% of the patients stuck with the SVD diet. 94% of the patients in the SVD group retained remission compared with 33% in the omnivorous group. The remission rate with the SVD was 100% at 1 year and 92% at 2 years. The SVD diet did not cause any problems in the patients.
Michael Greger, MD, founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States, told Ivanhoe about the importance of the study. "200 days into the study, all of the patients told to eat flexitarian were still in remission. About 20 percent of the group not told to eat anything different relapsed. After a year on a diet of semi-veg, they were still symptom free but the disease reemerged in about half of those on the standard diet. At the end of two years, 92% of the patients told to eat flexitarian remained without disease whereas a large majority of those not given those instructions relapsed back into cycles of drugs, hospitalizations, and surgery, a highly significant finding."
The concentration of C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation, was normal at the final visit in more than half of the patients on the SVD, which showed that more than half of the patients who continue the SVD will be free from relapse as long as they maintain their flexitarian diet.
This study distinguishes itself as one of the best results in relapse prevention. "Encouraging to cut back to less than a single serving of meat per week appears to be the best results in relapse remission ever recorded." Dr. Greger notes that even a few simple swaps can be good for your health. "Even just eating more fruits and vegetables can affect disease regression."
Source: 2012 77th Florida Dietetic Association Annual Symposium, July 2012