Healthy lifestyle may prevent half of diverticulitis cases

November 27, 2017 in Gastrointestinal Health, Healthy Eating, Men's Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Healthy lifestyle may prevent half of diverticulitis cases

Men’s risk for a painful inflammation of colon walls, diverticulitis, may be drastically reduced if they follow an overall healthy lifestyle, a recent U.S. study from Harvard Medical School in Boston suggests. 

Diverticulitis is an inflammation of small pouches (called diverticula) in the walls of the colon,

For the study, the researchers were interested in understanding what puts people at risk for diverticulitis and among those risk factors, which ones are modifiable so that people may make changes to prevent an episode of diverticulitis.

The researchers analyzed data on more than 51,000 men who were between the ages of 40 and 75 in 1986. More than 90 percent of the men were followed through the end of December 2012. 

At the start of the study, participants answered questions about their lifestyles and medical histories, then every two years after that, they answered follow-up questionnaires. 

Risk factors: Red meat, fibre, physical activity, smoking and body weight

The researchers focused on five lifestyle risk factors associated with diverticulitis: total red meat intake, dietary fibre intake, vigorous physical activity, smoking and body mass index (BMI, a measure of weight relative to height). For each of these risk factors, the researchers divided men into 5 groups from highest to lowest.

Using these categories, the researchers defined a low-risk lifestyle as average red meat intake of less than four 5-ounce servings weekly, dietary fibre intake of at least 23 grams  per day, two or more hours of vigorous physical activity per week, normal BMI and being a never-smoker. 

Having five low risk factors reduced risk by 70%

During the follow-up years, there were a total 907 new cases of diverticulitis.

Compared with men who met none of the low-risk lifestyle criteria, those with one low-risk lifestyle factor were 29 percent less likely to have diverticulitis, while men with two low-risk factors were 34 percent less likely to have the condition. Men with three or four low-risk factors had about half the risk of diverticulitis and men with all five low-risk factors had about 70 percent lower risk. 

Doing whatever is possible to minimize the potential risk factors for diverticulitis would be a general first step for people who are concerned about developing the condition.

The current study only included men, but the researchers hope to look more closely at risk factors in women to determine if there are any differences. 

Source: The American Journal of Gastroenterology, online November 7, 2017.

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