Ultra-Processed Foods That Might Be Responsible for Higher Risk of IBD

Detail of a young woman in home clothes sitting on her sofa holding her lower stomach with both hands in pain leaning forwards.A new study published in The BMJ suggests that ultra-processed foods have a direct link to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These types of foods include food additives, often containing high levels of added sugar, fat, and salt.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a condition of ongoing inflammation in all or part of the digestive tract. It’s more common in industrialized nations, which is why it is thought that dietary factors may play a role.


However, data linking ultra-processed foods with IBD are limited. Ultra-processed foods include packaged baked goods, snacks, fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, and ready meals.

For this study, an international team of researchers pulled information from 116,087 adults aged 35–70 years living in 21 low, middle, and high-income countries taking part in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. This study is examining the impact of societal influences on chronic diseases in different countries around the world.

The participants were assessed at least every three years between 2003 and 2016. Over an average follow-up of 9.7 years, new diagnoses of IBD were recorded. This also included conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

During this period, 467 participants developed IBD, including 90 with Crohn’s disease and 377 with ulcerative colitis. It was concluded that a higher intake of ultra-processed foods was associated with a higher risk of IBD.

Compared with less than one serving of ultra-processed food per day, researchers found an 82% increased risk of IBD among those who consumed five or more servings a day. A 67% increased risk was found for 1–4 servings per day.

After further analysis, results were also consistent for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Subgroups Not Equal


Each subgroup of ultra-processed foods was associated with higher IBD risks, so not all were equally as bad. These foods included processed meats, salty snacks, refined sweetened foods, and soft drinks.

In contrast to these processed foods, intakes of white meat, red meat, dairy, starch, legumes, fruits, and vegetables were not associated with IBD. This leads researchers to believe that it may not be the foods themselves that contain this risk, but rather the way the food is processed or ultra-processed.

“Further studies are needed to identify specific potential contributory factors among processed foods that might be responsible for the observed associations in our study,” they conclude.

Author Bio

Sarah began her interest in nutritional healing at an early age. After going through health problems and becoming frustrated with the conventional ways doctors wanted to treat her illness (which were not working), she took it upon herself to find alternative treatments. This led her to revolutionize her own diet to help her get healthier and tackle her health problems. She began treating her illness by living a more balanced lifestyle through healthy food choices, exercise and other alternative medicine such as meditation. This total positive lifestyle change led her to earn a diploma in Nutritional Therapy from Health Sciences Academy in London, England. Today, Sarah enjoys helping others by teaching healthy lifestyle changes through her personal consultations and with her regular contributions to the Doctors Health Press. Also, passionate about following her dreams in life, Sarah moved to France and lived in Paris for over 5 years where she earned a certification in beadwork and embroidery from Lesage (an atelier owned by Chanel). She then went on to be a familiar face sitting front row and reporting from Paris Fashion Week. Sarah continues to practice some of the cultural ways of life she learned while in Europe. They enjoy their food, and take the time to relax and enjoy many of life’s little moments. These are life lessons she is glad to have brought back home with her.