NZ Studies find link between diet and Crohn’s Disease
Nutrigenomics researchers at The University of Auckland have
found a potential relationship between Crohn’s disease, a disease
that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, and diet.
In the developed world, Crohn’s is thought to affect one in
every 10,000 people. Local studies in New Zealand have suggested a
higher incidence, with the highest recorded rate of one reported case
per 600 people in the Canterbury area.
The research team at the University’s Faculty of Medical & Health
Sciences, part of Nutrigenomics New Zealand, are studying the link
between foods eaten by people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
focusing on individuals with Crohn’s disease, and different variations
of the IBD-related genes. Nutrigenomics New Zealand is a multidisciplinary
research collaboration between The University of Auckland, AgResearch,
HortResearch and Crop & Food Research. Its ongoing study at the
University is the largest national study undertaken in New Zealand
on Crohn’s disease.
Of the 700 people with forms of IBD interviewed in the study so far,
more than 50% could identify foods that relieve their symptoms, and
almost 90% identified foods that made their condition worse.
Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease, the
exact cause of which remains unknown. The disease causes the gastrointestinal
tract to become inflamed, causing abdominal pain, diarrhoea and discomfort.
Although symptoms are often controlled through medication and surgery,
flare-ups of the disease can occur at any time. In the most severe
cases, people with Crohn’s disease can be hospitalised for long
periods of time, require extensive surgery or be housebound.
The study involves comparing the genetic differences in people with
Crohn’s with dietary tolerances and intolerances. Information
about lifestyle and symptoms are also collected, to learn more about
the disease and potentially to allow tailoring of foods to genetic
type. The study involves volunteers across New Zealand submitting answers
to questionnaires about their diet and lifestyle and giving a blood
sample for genetic analysis. More volunteers are required, including
people with no family history of the disease to act as experimental
“ Crohn’s disease is on the rise, and it is important
that we learn as much as possible about how diet affects symptoms
this is genetically linked,”
said Professor Lynn Ferguson
of the University’s Nutrigenomics group.
“ For some people,
the disease takes over their lives and being able to alleviate some
of their symptoms with lifestyle changes would drastically improve
their quality of life. This is a study of New Zealand people – results
will reflect the New Zealand lifestyle.”
“ Local support groups provide an important service in keeping
people up to date with new research as well as educating people with
the disease, their families and medical professionals. We would like
to see groups becoming available for people in areas of the country
where support groups don’t exist, particularly in the Wellington
and Hutt areas, and would be glad to hear from anyone who would like
to get involved.”
Nutrigenomics New Zealand is a collaboration between AgResearch, Crop & Food
Research, HortResearch and The University of Auckland and is largely
funded by the Foundation of Research, Science and Technology (FRST).
Source: Auckland University, New Zealand.