- Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel syndrome that causes debilitating intestinal
swelling, cramping, and diarrhea.
- A high fat diet may lead to specific changes in gut bacteria that could fight harmful
- The fat diet had plant-derived "good" fats, including coconut oil or cocoa butter and reduced
bacterial diversity in mice with Crohn's disease.
High fat diets can alter gut bacteria to combat inflammation in Crohn's disease. Researchers at Case
Western Reserve University School of Medicine have shown a high fat diet may lead to specific changes
in gut bacteria that could fight harmful inflammation.
What is Crohn's Disease?
‘Beneficial fatty diets with coconut oil, cocoa butter had up to thirty percent fewer kinds of gut bacteria, collectively
resulting in a very different gut microbial composition which reduced inflammation in the intestine.’
Crohn's disease also known as regional enteritis or granulomatous enteritis is an inflammation of the
small intestine. Along with ulcerative colitis it is grouped under the category of inflammatory bowel
The disease affects half a million people in the United States, but its cause is yet unclear. Abdominal
pain, diarrhea and bleeding from the rectum are the common signs.
Though the disease subsidizes with treatment, there are chances of relapse.
The causes of IBD is suspected to be a deranged immune system that overshoots the inflammatory response
to an unknown causative agent.
There is no cure for regional enteritis and treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms and
controlling the inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory agents like salazopyrine, steroids, immuno-modulators like Azathioprine,
Infliximab and the newest Adalimumab are used in those patients not responding to steroids or suffering
from undesirable side-effects of steroids.
As far as diet is concerned, a bland diet which is low in fiber, fat and spices are suggested.
Probiotics help to prevent relapse.
Plant-Derived Fats Reduce Inflammation
In the new study, a diet of plant-derived "good" fats, including coconut oil or cocoa butter,
drastically reduced bacterial diversity in mice with Crohn's-like disease.
Mice fed beneficial
fatty diets had up to thirty percent fewer kinds of gut bacteria as those fed a normal diet,
collectively resulting in a very different gut microbial composition.
Some of the species changes showed up in feces, while others were different in cecum, a portion of the
intestine commonly inflamed in Crohn's disease. Mice fed even low concentrations of coconut oil or
cocoa butter also had less severe small intestine inflammation.
"The finding is remarkable because it means that a Crohn's patient could also have a beneficial effect
on their gut bacteria and inflammation by only switching the type of fat in their diet," said Alexander
Rodriguez-Palacios, DVM, DVSc, PhD, first author of the study and Assistant Professor of Medicine at
Case Western Reserve University.
"Patients would only need to replace a 'bad' fat with a 'good'
fat, and eat normal amounts."
The study is one of the first to identify specific changes in gut bacteria--our microbiome--associated
with Crohn's disease. It is also the first to show how high fat diets can alter gut bacteria to combat
Results from the study could help doctors identify bacteria to use in probiotics to treat patients
suffering from inflammatory bowel syndromes.
"Ongoing studies are now helping us to understand which component of the 'good' and 'bad' fats make
the difference in the gut microbes and make mice healthier," Rodriguez-Palacios said. "Ultimately, we
aim to identify the 'good' fat-loving microbes for testing as probiotics."
The researchers anticipate their findings may have varying effects for patients. "Not all 'good' fats
might be good in all patients," Rodriguez-Palacios cautioned.
"Mice indicate that each person could respond differently. But diet is something we are very hopeful
could help at least some patients without the side-effects and risks carried by drugs. The trick now is
to really discover what makes a fat 'good' or 'bad' for Crohn's disease."
- Alexander Rodriguez-Palacios et al., titleHigh Fat Diet Reduces Gut
Bacteria, Crohn's Disease Symptoms, Digestive Disease Week (2017).