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High Red Meat Consumption Linked to Diverticulitis

 In addition to looking after your heart, you now have all the more reason to cut down on your consumption of red meat. A 26-year-long study has just been concluded, definitively linking increased red meat consumption to a bowel condition called diverticulitis.


The study found that men who ate six or more serving of red meat each week were 58% more likely to develop diverticulitis than men who ate just 1.2 servings per week. Diverticulitis occurs when a person’s gut lining bulges outward from its usual position and forms a small sac.

This sac, known as a diverticulum, becomes inflamed. Although diverticula can occur anywhere within the gut, they’re most common in the large intestine. Diverticulitis leads to approximately 210,000 hospitalizations annually in the United States alone at a cost exceeding $2 billion, the study’s researchers said.

Severe diverticulitis cases are occasionally treated with intravenous antibiotics or surgery. Despite the exorbitant cost and severity of the problem, the reasons for an individual developing diverticulitis, or even what makes them more susceptible to developing it in the first place, remain elusive.

red meat

Some of the risk factors for developing diverticulitis are thought to be smoking, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and a lack of physical activity. With regard to dietary factors, not eating enough fiber seems to play a role in the development of diverticulitis, however not much else is known about how other dietary factors contribute.

The study analyzed data collected from 46,000 men. Every two years, they were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their complete medical history and any illnesses they may have had. Every four years, they completed a questionnaire to give researchers a sense of their diets.


At the beginning of the study, none of the men under analysis were found to be suffering from diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease or gastrointestinal cancer, however, some 764 of the participants had developed diverticulitis by the end of the 26-year follow-up period.

Other observations that the study made include an increased incidence of smoking among participants that ate a lot of red meat, as well as an increased incidence of doing less exercise. In spite of these findings, the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between eating more red meat and developing diverticulitis.

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Its researchers have used several tried-and-tested hypotheses to underpin their findings, such as a higher red meat intake being linked to levels of chronic inflammation, which increase a person’s risk of developing the condition. Furthermore, red meat is also known to alter the makeup of the gut’s microbiome.

Although processed meat is often implicated in health problems, this study found unprocessed red meat to be the major driver of the link between high red meat consumption and the development of diverticulitis.

Reasons for this could be that unprocessed meat is usually consumed in larger portions than processed meat, and is usually cooked at much higher temperatures. It currently remains unclear if the landmark findings also apply to women.


Content source: LiveScience 

Images (including cover) by Deposit Photos.

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