Transcript: Dietary Treatment of Crohn’s Disease
We know plant-based diets decrease markers of inflammation, but to see if plant-based diets decrease inflammation in a clinically relevant way, 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; put half on one diet, half on the other, and see what happens.
Inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease, is an autoimmune condition where your immune system attacks your own intestines. There is no cure; all you can do is try to keep it in remission as long as possible between attacks. Sufferers are often put on anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs, and may find themselves in and out of the hospital, getting segments of their intestines surgically removed.
Since it’s the intestine itself that’s inflamed, that would seem a good condition to test out the anti-inflammatory power of plant based diets. We’ve known that meat, cheese, fish, and animal protein in general have been found to increase the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease. But what about plants to not just prevent, but treat it?
Japanese researchers took a group of Crohn’s patients in remission—either because they just came out of surgery or because they were able to beat it back with steroids. And for two years, asked half of them to eat a semi-vegetarian diet—meaning in this case, vegetarian, except for half a serving of fish a week, and half a serving of other meat once every two weeks. But otherwise, they were supposed to eat vegetarian. Less than one serving of meat per week.
Now, this wasn’t a prison study or anything; these were free-living adults. So, the results are not what necessarily happens when Crohn’s sufferers actually go on a plant-based diet, but what happens when people that are just told to eat a more plant based diet, and how much they comply is up to them—which makes the results even more astounding.
Check this out. The dashed line is the standard diet group; the solid line is the semi-veg. 200 days into the study, all of the patients told to eat more of a plant-based diet are still in remission. But about 20% of the group not told to eat anything different relapsed. After a year, 100% of the semi-veg group still symptom free, but the disease re-emerged in half of the standard diet group. And at the end of two years, 92% of the patients told to eat a more plant-based diet remained without disease, whereas the majority of those not given that advise relapsed back in the cycles of drugs, hospitalizations and surgery. A highly significant finding.
And that horrible relapse rate is typical on typical diets. Most Crohn’s sufferers relapse within a year or two, yet “The semi-vegetarian diet was highly effective in preventing relapse in Crohn’s disease. Remission rate, meaning disease-free status, with the semi-vegetarian diet was 100% at one year, and 92% at two years. This is the best result in relapse prevention.” To the best of the researchers’ knowledge, this is the best result in relapse prevention ever reported.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena.
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