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Study Reveals Connection Between Eating Meat and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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December 15, 2013

Recently, a new diet study conducted in the United States revealed that eating meat had a causal effect on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Study volunteers were asked to switch from their regular diets to either full plant or animal foods. Plant dieters were restricted to grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits. The animal-product eaters had to stick to eggs, meat, and cheese. The volunteers, all between 21 and 33, had body mass indices ranging from 19 to 32.

After five days on their diets, the researchers found that the microbial activity in their participants' intestines had changed significantly. Plant-based volunteers had bacteria suited to synthesize amino acids - protein's building blocks - from plant sugars. Animal-based participants, on the other hand, were found to house trillions of "gut bugs" that broke down protein. In a very short period of time, they had developed an abundance of microbes to the tune of 22 clusters.
Researchers also found that the animal-based volunteers in the study had much higher amounts of Bilphila wadsworthia, a bile-tolerant bug that causes IBD. Dr. Peter Turnbaugh, the principal investigator, concluded that there was a link between bile acids, dietary fat, and the growth of micro-organisms capable of causing IBD. In addition, the researchers found that the gut's microbiome can change rather rapidly when responding to a change in diet.

The study revealed that those who eat meat can suffer from IBD. Although the symptoms may not be very severe for some, others could end up hospitalised from the gut-wrenching abdominal pain. Some may be house-bound due to the bouts of diarrhea associated with IBD. Other extra-intestinal symptoms or side-effects may also result, including sexual dysfunction, fibromyalgia, and problems with the menstrual cycle for women.

In the end, it is safe to say that diet can affect the bacteria microbiome in people's bodies. Meat eaters need to be aware that their diet can contribute to IBD, which generally includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. This awareness, alone, can remind people that perhaps the best thing to do is to eat a well-balanced diet.

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