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Healthy Lifestyle Could Prevent IBD Cases



Healthy Lifestyle Could Prevent IBD Cases

New research shows that the risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can be reduced through a healthy lifestyle.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can prevent up to 60% of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) cases, according to a new study.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and other health organizations have published a large international study of IBD that includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) in the journal Gut.1

Previously published studies have linked the risk of IBD with various lifestyle factors, but it is unclear whether adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing the disease at all, notes the BMJ (British Medical Journal) in a press release.2

The researchers reviewed data from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), NHSII, and the Follow-up Health Workers Study (HPFS). In 1976, the NHS enrolled 121,700 nurses aged 30–55 from 11 US states, while the NHSII study, which began in 1989, followed 116,429 nurses aged 25–42 from 15 states. in 1986.

The researchers created Modifiable Risk Scores (MRS) for each participant based on established modifiable IBD risk factors to estimate the proportion of IBD cases that could be prevented. Risk factors included weight (body mass index, BMI); smoking; the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; physical activity; daily intake of fruits, fiber, vegetables, polyunsaturated fatty acids and red meat.

The researchers then calculated the proportion of preventable cases if a generally healthy lifestyle was adopted and maintained. Healthy lifestyle included: BMI between 18.5 and 25, never smoke, at least 7.5 hours of MET per week (METS expresses the amount of energy (calories) expended per minute of physical activity); and at least 8 daily servings of fruits and vegetables, less than half of the daily portion of red meat, at least 25 g of fiber per day, at least 2 servings of fish per week, at least half of the daily portion of nuts/seeds, and no more than 1 serving of alcohol per day for women or 2 for men.

Based on the MRS scores, the researchers calculated that a low MRS could prevent 43% and 44.5% of cases of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, respectively, according to the BMJ.

Similarly, maintaining a healthy lifestyle could prevent 61% of Crohn’s disease cases and 42% of ulcerative colitis cases.

“Lifestyle modification may be an attractive target for future IBD prevention strategies,” the authors write. “This may be of particular relevance to high-risk groups, such as immediate family members of patients with IBD, who have a 2% to 17% lifetime risk of developing the disease.”

The researchers added that a key assumption of the results is that the relationship between lifestyle factors and the development of IBD is causal. “While this remains to be established, several lines of evidence support the critical role of environmental and lifestyle factors in the development of IBD.”


1. Lopez E.V., Chang S.M., Song M. et al. Lifestyle factors for the prevention of inflammatory bowel disease. Intestines. 2022. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2022-328174

2. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can prevent up to 60% of cases of inflammatory bowel disease. Press release. BMJ. December 6, 2022 Accessed December 16, 2022

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