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High red meat intake linked to diverticulitis in men

A high dietary intake of red meat is linked to an increased risk of developing the inflammatory bowel condition diverticulitis, new study results suggest. 

Regular consumption of red meat increases the risk of diverticulitis in men. Picture: iStock

Diverticulitis has been linked to smoking, use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, obesity and insufficient intake of dietary fibre, but few other dietary factors have been explored in detail.

The researchers assessed the potential impact of total dietary red meat, poultry and fish intake on the risk of developing diverticulitis in almost 46,500 men. All the men were aged between 40 and 75 at the start of the study, which ran from 1986 to 2012. 

Every four years the men were asked how often, on average, they had eaten standard size portions of red meat (including processed meat), poultry and fish in the preceding year, ranging from ‘never’ to ‘six or more times a day’. 

Dietary advice

The researchers found that, compared with the lowest levels of red meat consumption, the highest level of intake was associated with a 58% heightened risk of developing diverticulitis. 

Each daily serving was associated with an 18% increased risk, with risk peaking at six servings a week. The researchers said the association was strongest for unprocessed red meat, and said that substituting one daily portion of this with fish or poultry could lower the risk of developing diverticulitis by 20%. 

‘Our findings may provide practical dietary guidance for patients at risk of diverticulitis, a common disease of huge economic and clinical burden,’ the researchers said. 

Cao Y et al (2017) Meat intake and risk of diverticulitis among men. Gut. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2016-313082 

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