Diverticulosis and diet

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
August 26, 2008 9:13:51 PM PDT
Diverticulosis is a intestinal disorder affecting millions of Americans. It's dangerous when it develops into an infection.Sufferers are usually told to stay away from certain foods, but a new study says that may not be necessary.

Many people at middle age are shocked when they're told they have diverticulosis. Usually, they find this out after having a colonoscopy or after they end up in the hospital with an infection called diverticulitis. Now, there is new information on what patients can eat.

One-third of the U.S. population will develop diverticulosis by age 60. Small pockets that can form in the colon become infected, which can lead to the serious condition.

"Diverticulitis is a real medical condition," said Dr. Sapna Syngal, of Brigham and Women's Hospital. "It can be serious. It can lead to operations, colon perforations, death even, in rare instances."

Dr. Syngal is a gastroenterologist at the Boston hospital. She and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 47,000 men, which was compiled from questionnaires that monitored the men's diet and medical condition every two years. Researchers compared intake of popcorn, nuts and corn with the incidence of diverticulitis.

"To our surprise, there was no association with nut, popcorn or corn intake and the development of diverticulitis or diverticular bleeding," Dr. Syngal said.

Researchers followed participants for about 18 years.

They say men who ate popcorn, nuts and corn more than twice a week were no more likely to develop diverticulitis than those who only ate these foods less than once a month.

"The people who had higher intakes of nuts and popcorn had a lower rate of diverticulitis," Dr. Syngal said. "So it actually went against what has been believed for a long period of time"

Researchers say, based on their findings, they believe it is unnecessary to avoid eating popcorn, nuts or corn.

"I think the question is, what can you do to avoid complications?" Dr. Syngal said. "And we don't have the exact answers to that right now."

So are there any foods that could actually protect you from diverticulitis? More studies are needed to get that answer.

While this study was done only with men, the researchers believe these findings also are true for women. However, to be sure, a study on women would need to be conducted. The results of this study will appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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STORY BY: Dr. Jay Adlersberg

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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