A new study has found that the consumption of red meat increases the risk of diverticulitis among men. The researchers looked at over two decades worth of data from over 46,000 men. They found that red meat eaters had a 58 percent higher risk of diverticulitis, compared to those who consumed chicken or fish more frequently. Diverticulitis is a condition in which small pockets form along the bowel lining and become inflamed.
Study author Andrew Chan explained, “Previous studies have shown that a high fiber diet is associated with a lower risk of diverticulitis, however, the role of other dietary factors in influencing risk of diverticulitis was not well studied. Our results show that diets high in red meat may be associated with a higher risk of diverticulitis.”
Cases of diverticulitis continue to rise, but the exact causes are often unknown. Risk factors for diverticulitis include smoking, obesity, and certain over-the-counter pain relievers.
For the most part, diverticulitis can be treated with diet changes, but in severe cases surgery is necessary.
The men were studied between 1986 and 2012. Then every four years they were asked about their diet habits. Over the course of the study, 764 men developed diverticulitis.
Researchers uncovered that men who consumed red meat the most were more likely to be smokers, taking over-the-counter pain medications, and not getting in much exercise. On the other hand, men who consumed more fish and chicken tended to live healthier lifestyles.
Unprocessed meat was found to be linked to a greater risk of diverticulitis, compared to processed meat. The researchers speculate this is because unprocessed meat requires higher cooking temperatures, which can affect the composition of bacteria in the gut.
It’s important to keep in mind that the study was observational and does not prove causality. The findings do stress the importance of moderating your red meat intake as many other studies have linked high red meat consumption to numerous health problems.
Nutritionist Samantha Heller who was not involved in the study commented, “Focusing on a more plant-based, higher fiber diet that includes legumes, whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits, replete with appropriate fluid intake, may go a long way in helping reduce of inflammatory bowel diseases, diverticulitis, and other chronic diseases.”