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Dietary Treatment for Crohn’s Disease

Inflammation has recently emerged as an important player in the development of age-related disability and many of our major chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Now that laboratory tests such as C-reactive protein have been developed, we can measure the effects different foods and diets have on inflammatory markers.

Most plant-based foods decrease inflammation. Processing destroys the anti-inflammatory effects of some (garlic decreases inflammation but garlic powder does not), but improves these effects in others (tomato juice decreases inflammation but whole tomatoes do not). For a review of which plants have been found to be most anti-inflammatory, check out my 3-min. video Anti-inflammatory Effects of Purple Potatoes.

Do these anti-inflammatory plant foods actually have an impact on inflammatory disease mortality though? In my 2-min. video Fighting Inflammation in a Nut Shell I profile a new study out of Australia, which followed about 2,500 older adults and their diets for 15 years. In that time, about 200 participants died of inflammatory diseases, allowing the scientists to calculate the specific aspect of the survivorsí diets that seemed to help the most. It was nuts! The equivalent of half a walnut a day appeared to cut the risk of dying from inflammatory disease in nearly half. Fish consumption, to their surprise, didnít seem to help, which may be due to pro-inflammatory industrial pollutants that build up the food chain. This may help explain why most studies done to date on those eating vegetarian or vegan have found lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers in their bodies.

However, just because plant-based diets decrease markers of inflammation doesn’t necessarily mean that plant-based diets can successfully be used to fight inflammatory disease. To find that out, 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 and ask half to go on one diet, half to go on another, and then stand back and see what happens. That’s just what researchers recently did for the autoimmune inflammatory bowel condition known as Crohn’s disease, profiled in today’s video pick above.

Inflammatory bowel disease risk has been tied to arachidonic acid, which may partially explain the animal protein connection given the†levels in chicken and eggs. The anti-inflammatory nature of plant foods may explain why those eating plant-based diets have less diabetes (Preventing Macular Degeneration With Diet), fewer allergies (Preventing Allergies in Adulthood), less heart disease (China Study on Sudden Cardiac Death), better moods (Improving Mood Through Diet), and fewer chronic diseases in general (Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants).

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: Dylan Luder / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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5:48AM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

Very clearand concise, I don't know if I have Crohn's but my dedication to minimizing meat in my dioet has been renewed through viewing this.

1:33PM PDT on Sep 19, 2012

Thank you

7:51PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

Thank you I really didn't know much about this and I appreciate the variety of articles you have on Crohns...

7:49AM PDT on Jul 15, 2012


7:12AM PDT on Jul 15, 2012

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis 17 years ago and no one ever mentioned eating a plant-based diet to me. My doctor told me to avoid vegetables and fruit. When I protested, he said potatoes were probably okay. I have had a partial colectomy and had to have an iliostomy bag for 6 months before being reconnected and have years of pain and diarrhea which has interfered with my life and job many times. I will be trying the plant-based diet now.

10:55PM PDT on Jul 14, 2012

Passed the info on to someone who could really use it. Thank you.

6:58PM PDT on Jul 14, 2012

I sure wish there was a magic way to really know what to eat.

6:47PM PDT on Jul 14, 2012

Heavy meat consumption increases risk of dying of all causes, heart disease and cancer, National Cancer Institute study, Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study looked at half a million men and women aged 50 to 71, following their diet and other health habits for 10 years. Between 1995 and 2005, 47,976 men and 23,276 women died.

They divided the volunteers into 5 groups or "quintiles." Major factors were accounted for, eating fruit, vegetables, smoking, exercise, obesity, etc. People eating the most meat consumed approx. 6 oz stake per day.

Women eating high meat diet, 20% higher risk of dying of cancer, 50% risk of dying of heart disease. Men had a 22% higher risk of dying of cancer, 27% higher risk of dying of heart disease. (this article quotes other studies saying the same thing)

Happy Healthy Trails
Doc Blake

Eating Meat Kills More People Than Previously Thought

6:14PM PDT on Jul 14, 2012

Thanks for the article.

2:10PM PDT on Jul 14, 2012

Good to know! Thank you for this very informative article.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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