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Irritable Bowel Tied to Fat and Fructose

Studies find relief when patients cut down on both

MONDAY, Oct. 13, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Two new studies suggest fat and fructose, a sugar found in many fruits and honey, play key roles in causing gastrointestinal disorders.

Both studies were presented Oct. 13 at the American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting in Baltimore.

In the first report, Nancy Kraft, a clinical dietitian from the University of Iowa, and her colleagues say patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) who are fructose-intolerant can achieve a significant improvement in symptoms by following a diet that restricts fructose intake.

Kraft says fructose intolerance is an often overlooked component of IBS.

Her colleague, Dr. Young Choi, adds in a statement that "a fructose-restricted diet significantly improved symptoms in patients with IBS and fructose intolerance. Fructose intolerance is yet another piece of the IBS puzzle, whose treatment when adhered to confers significant benefit."

In the study, the researchers looked at 80 patients with suspected IBS. Of these they found 30 were fructose-intolerant. Kraft's team taught these patients how to eliminate fructose from their diet. After one year, 26 patients were interviewed to assess their symptoms.

Among the 14 patients who stuck to the diet, there was a significant reduction in symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. In addition, there was a decline in IBS in this group.

However, bowel symptoms remained the same for the 12 patients who did not stick with the diet, the researchers report.

Kraft believes these results are encouraging, since "people who limit their intake of fructose see their symptoms improve or disappear," but that further study is needed.

In the second study, researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., led by Dr. Yuri Saito, collected data on the diets of 221 adults, aged 20 to 50. Of these patients, 102 had gastrointestinal disorders and 119 were healthy.

The research team found patients with IBS or dyspepsia reported eating more monounsaturated fats compared to healthy patients. These patients also ate fewer carbohydrates than their healthy counterparts.

The Mayo investigators conclude that "future studies are needed to determine whether fat intake causes gastrointestinal symptoms."

Dr. Theodore M. Bayless, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, finds both reports of value. He is not surprised fat and fructose are linked with IBS and dyspepsia.

He notes that both fat and fructose are hard to digest and can aggravate both conditions. Bayless, however, does not believe that restricting fructose cures IBS; it only relieves the symptoms.

Bayless says "anyone who is gassy with or without IBS will benefit by decreasing the intake of fructose."

He advises his patients to avoid fatty foods and foods that contain high levels of fructose such as grapes, dates, nuts, honey and apple or pear juice.

He also advises patients to increase fiber intake to make their bowels perform regularly.

More information

To learn more about IBS, visit the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse or the American Gastroenterological Association.

SOURCES: Nancy Kraft, R.D., clinical dietitian, University of Iowa, Iowa City; Theodore M. Bayless, M.D., professor, medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; Oct. 13, 2003, presentation, American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting, Baltimore
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